Hold on, and brace yourselves for the following post, because it may ruffle some feathers…
A couple of weeks ago, my youngest daughter wore the cutest dress. I wanted to share a picture of it on social media, but I hesitated. Why? Fear. Fear of someone seeing my see-thru-white, strawberry blonde baby in a Mexican dress and wagging a finger at me in the name of Cultural Appropriation.
What’s cultural appropriation (or CA as it is sometimes abbreviated)? Go google it. I know just enough to get myself into trouble, but not enough to explain it well. Basically, if someone from another culture “steals” a piece of a culture not their own, it is called cultural appropriation. If you’re white and wear dreds: CA. White and wear a Kimono? CA. White and paint a sugar skull on your face? CA.
My daughter, as I mentioned before is suuuuuper white. But the dress she is wearing is from a culture her own, not stolen. My mother is Mexican. Her first language is Spanish. She was raised alongside her 12 siblings in the home of 2 Mexican American parents who spoke Spanish and had/have dual citizenship. My mother bought this dress from Mexico. For another one of her very white looking grandchildren, and this was passed to each of them, and now it is my little girl’s turn to wear it.
At any other point in my life, I would have posted this with pride! Look at my daughter looking adorable in this Mexican dress! Isn’t she cute? Isn’t she sweet?! But in today’s social media insanity, I hesitate. Because someone who doesn’t know me, may accuse me of stealing a culture that is my own.
Here’s the deal, it’s really, freakin’ important for me to expose my children to the rich Mexican culture my mother comes from. My mother married a white man, and I married a white man. My children have 1/4 of Latino blood in them. Growing up, I assumed I would marry someone who was also Mexican because I wanted my children to be steeped in Mexican culture. But that didn’t happen, so my white husband and I do our best to teach our kids about their Mexican culture. We teach them words in Spanish, and we use the correct pronunciation for words in Spanish. I practice rolling “Rs” with them, I say Spanish vowel sounds with them, we read bilingual children’s books. Putting my daughter in a Mexican dress is just another way I can introduce them to our rich culture.
I fear my generation has gotten so steeped in their separation of cultures, that many in the next generation are going to miss out on learning about mine. I refuse to tell my children that since they look white, they may not practice and enjoy Mexican food, dress, and culture for fear of offending someone. I refuse to hide in shame for putting my child in something that rightfully belongs to her. I refuse to bow to what my generation says is acceptable and not when it comes to this topic.
I guess my point in posting this is to say, unless you know the exact ethnic or cultural background someone is from, save your judgement. It’s simply not your job to assume where someone has come from. And if we are told we cannot ask about someone’s gender, then you certainly aren’t free to ask someone what their cultural background is. It’s just not your business. It’s hard enough being mixed race without being constantly asked about it.