Should white children wear ‘Black Panther’ costumes for Halloween?
By Lauren Floyd, Honeycomb Moms
Should white parents let their kids wear “Black Panther” costumes for Halloween?
People with fancy titles have danced around the question for weeks now.
The most definitive answer I could find from the experts online was a wordier version of ‘just be careful’ in the New York Times from an associate professor of early childhood development and education at Texas Woman’s University.
Brigitte Vittrup warned parents and people creating costumes to be aware of the messages they are sending with “Black Panther” costumes.
“There’s not a whole lot of black superheroes, so this is a really important thing, especially for black kids growing up,” she told the New York Times.
While her explanation is much appreciated, it doesn’t exactly help white parents truly wanting to find a middle ground between giving their children what they want and being culturally insensitive.
So I’ll be a bit more direct.
Black, brown, white and purple kids alike have permission from five of the seven black moms of this blog to let your kids dress as whatever superhero they want to dress as with one hugely important contingency.
“Just no black face,” mom Judea Dee-Steele said.
Celebrating superheroes is one thing. Using that celebration as an excuse to mock black or African people is something completely different.
So let me spell out a few other no-nos for you.
You shouldn’t be painting your child’s skin brown. Your child shouldn’t be speaking with a fake accent.
And you shouldn’t be dressing your child in actual African garb or attire meant to mimic it.
Oh Lord, I almost want to take back permission right here and now. That’s why the other two Honeycomb moms leery now.
It almost never ends well when white people dress up as black people for “fun,” but I’m going to instead, choose to have faith in others’ common sense.
Plus, I’m just not prepared to tell a child wanting to dress like his favorite superhero that he can’t because that superhero is black.
For years, our black children have been told this very thing.
See Mary Hoffman's fictional depiction in the children's book "Amazing Grace," in which the protagonist is told she can’t play Peter Pan in a school play because she’s a black girl and not a white boy.
Now that black people have a winner of a superhero flick – and the “Black Panther” is definitely a winner, grossing more than $700 million domestically and unseating The Avengers as the highest selling Marvel movie in the United States – why on earth would we exclude white children from celebrating that film like our children do?
Actor Sterling K. Brown, who appears in the “Black Panther,” told Buzzfeed:
“This Halloween, the first time I see a little kid, a white kid, dressed up as Black Panther, I’m taking a picture. You better believe I’m taking a picture, because that’s the crossover.”
Cultural appropriation claims, be damned.
Even though the movie is chock full of cultural references from black people and actual African nations, let’s remember the movie itself centers around a mythical African nation.
Simply put, King T'Challa isn’t real. Wakanda isn’t real, and therefore, they are fair game for a holiday of make-believe.
Just don’t imitate the elements that are very real to black and African people.