“2010 all of us were problematic.”
I can neither confirm, nor deny this, but it’s what my friend said to me when I pointed out my problematic behaviour. Honestly, I’d forgotten all about it, and I was reminded because of the recent news surrounding the EIC of Bon Appetit, but on Halloween 2010, I dressed as a “chola.”
The last week has tested us all, to say the least. Black people have called on allies to shed light and work to end systematic racism, dismantle the police, and to take a collective look in the mirror and acknowledge the ways those with privilege are contributing to racist narratives, whether intentionally or otherwise.
“Doing the work,” has become the new “In these unprecedented times,” and I have been fairly vocal on social media about how to be a good ally, because I believe that Black lives matter, and that racism goes way beyond an individual’s discriminatory beliefs. This is why I am calling myself out today.
I’m not going to post a photo of the costume. The point is, I should not have used any culture or subculture as a costume. As an Asian woman, I’ve pointed out racist costumes depicting Asian themes, so I should have absolutely known better.
While I would not dress that way as a costume NOW, that doesn’t erase the fact that I DID. It was 10 years ago, and I’d like to think that while I meant no offence then, that I can look back on it now and acknowledge that it was at the very least, icky, and at its worst a racist costume.
I’m not a celebrity, or someone in a position of power. Deleting the photo from Facebook (which I have) and just forgetting it ever happened would have been a lot easier, but owning up to our own shit is what a lot of “doing the work” is all about. I’ve done and been better since, but I wasn’t perfect then, and I’m not perfect now. However, I will continue to take stock of my actions and hold myself accountable. I may not have the kind of reach or influence as the EIC of a big magazine, but I’m an adult and a (now) mother, trying to lead by example. I’m calling myself out as a reminder that growth is an ongoing process. None of us are perfect, but no one is asking for perfection. Allyship, to me, is about the unlearning of the deeply engrained anti-black and racist narratives we’ve been taught our whole lives, no matter how small or insignificant they seem to us.
That costume is not a reflection of who I am as a person, or my beliefs. I hope that’s clear to everyone who knows me or has interacted with me irl or online.