Super Angst: New York Times Explores Whether White Kids Can Wear Black Panther Outfits

black-mask21Given my column strongly disagreeing with the premise of a recent New York Times column suggesting that House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes could be charged with obstruction of the memo released by the Committee, I am reluctant to raise yet another Times column. However, the Times yesterday ran a piece that highlights the growing angst over every costume and image as a possible act of “cultural appropriation.”  In an article entitled “Who’s Allowed to Wear A Black Panther Mask?”, the newspaper interviews experts on whether white children should be allowed to wear the costume of the popular character.  While the verdict was that white children could wear the outfits, it was not without trepidation and the need for some pre-playtime exploration of the racial, socio-economic, and political implications for the children.

Here is the set up:

Black Panther costumes — whether the character’s full raiment or just his claws and mask — are on toy store shelves (and, of course, on Amazon) in anticipation of the film’s Feb. 16 release. At best, the character get-ups speak to the enthusiastic embrace of a black superhero. At worst, they could be perceived as an unwitting form of cultural appropriation, which has in recent years become a subject of freighted discourse.

I have written columns and blogs through the years about the disturbing trend on U.S. campuses toward free speech regulation and controls. In the name of diversities and tolerance, college administrators and professors are enforcing greater and greater controls on speech –declaring certain views or terms to be forms of racism or more commonly “microaggressions.” Now protesters are seeking to declare classics as microaggressions and a university has again folded in the face of the mob.

We have seen students rise in protest over what they believe is “cultural appropriation” in schools offering yoga or students wearing dreadlocks or serving Mexican food. Recently students at Oberlin even fought to stop the school from offering students sushi as “cultural appropriation.”  We have even seen the mispronouncing of names   or the cancelling of the performance of Aida  as either cultural appropriations or microagressions or both.

The expanding objections to cultural appropriations has extended outside of universities, as we saw with the protests over two white women opening a taco truck.

In this case, the New York Times struggles with the question of whether a parent should allow a white children to emulate the Black Panther.  The angst-filled article appears to give reluctant acceptance to permitting white kids to do so, but not without interjecting society’s problems and race into their playtime.

Brigitte Vittrup, an associate professor of early childhood development and education at Texas Woman’s University, counsels caution: “we need to be very aware of what that says.” She added

“White people have the privilege of not constantly being reminded of their race in the United States, where white is the majority, whereas as a black person you don’t . . . Kids are not colorblind. There’s a lot of structural inequality in our society, and kids are noticing that. By not mentioning it, by not talking about it, we’re essentially preserving the status quo.”

Well, they certainly will not be color-blind with parents stopping them at the costume store to discuss the history of racist in America as part of their desire to be a superhero. I had the same frustration over the years with parents tying themselves into knots over kids playing with toy guns and bows (here and here).  What we really need is for some kid to stand up to his parents and declared, as T’Challa, “This ends today!” . . . and go off and play.
There is a possibility that it is the parents not the kids that are the problem. All of my kids want to see the movie and we will be going this weekend.  They just see a superhero.  No handwringing or vapors at the implications of the act. It is just another superhero and a good time.  Can’t we just call that a victory and let them go at that?

79 thoughts on “Super Angst: New York Times Explores Whether White Kids Can Wear Black Panther Outfits”

  1. Whenever there is a shortage of anything in our country, American business goes into overdrive to produce enough of a product to satisfy the market.

    1. You mean like the victors who have been enjoying the spoils of generational welfare, forced busing, quotas, unfair “Fair Housing” laws, discriminatory “Non-Discrimination” laws, “Affirmative Action Privilege”, social services, HAMP, HARP, HUD, HHS, WIC, etc., etc., etc., since 1965?

  2. I woke up during the night realizing when I grew up, I had one of those black light posters with the big black panther. Was I culturally appropriating?? What’s the statute of limitations on this kind of thing? That would have been circa 1976. Is my racist, CIS-gendered (is that how you display that), deceased mother, who was an ardent civil rights proponent and was proud to welcome the first black family in our community culpable?

    Oh, you can buy one here for $5.50. Think I paid $3 for it in ’76:

  3. One Halloween I had a super paper mache wolf’s head mask. Well, a werewolf mask…

      1. At 7,500 feet, even in northern New Mexico, there is no rain at that time of year.

        But of course it did not snow, either.

        1. David Benson – I have gone out on Halloween with a parka on in Montana. 😉

  4. Americans have lived for centuries with the cultural assumption and legal guarantee that all American culture is open to use by ALL Americans, subject to the just one limitation: the copyright, which allows content creators to profit from their efforts. When people see that assumption under attack, and their traditional rights disappearing before their eyes, it is no wonder that they consider voting for someone like Donald Trump.

  5. For Halloween, my granddaughter was Wonder Woman, her brother was The Flash. If I could have been Thor with a replica of Mjolner back in the day, I’d have done it. Any kid of any hue that want’s to dress up as the Black Panther is fine with me. Everything people can think of isn’t an issue.

    1. “Everything people can think of isn’t an issue.”

      Yep. I think some people try to find things to get upset about.

  6. Now that America has firmly established the inferiority of “whites”, can we plll-ease abolish generational welfare and “Affirmative Action Privilege” now?

  7. Each race should stay in its own bound? What are they suggesting.?
    I have a horse who can talk in English. Is he appropriating the human race? His name is Mister Fred.

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