EDITORIAL – The ‘cultural appropriation’ issue isn’t just about Halloween

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

SOMETIMES I think we look too hard for the things that divide us.

Let’s talk about what’s become known as ”cultural appropriation.” That’s the use or adoption of parts of one culture by someone from a different culture.

It comes in many forms, such as food, music and dress.

For example, the great singer Paul Simon was accused of appropriating South African music in his 1986 album Graceland. In my view, it was one of the best albums of all time, but it got all tangled up in the politics of Apartheid.

He didn’t get “permission” from the right people. Never mind that he collaborated with South African musicians on the album.

This time of year, at Halloween, costumes become a sensitive issue.  An example is the wearing of First Nations costumes by people who aren’t First Nations.

I understand the objection to this, if such costumes are stereotypically of the Hollywood Cowboys and Indians variety, or are intended to mock.

But what if a costume is accurate to a culture? If it’s done with respect, does it not then increase appreciation of it?

If I was to wear a kilt — heaven forbid — to a costume party, I suppose it would be OK because I have some Scottish ancestry. But what if I wore a Japanese costume? Does it help that Kamloops has a Japanese sister city with which we have an enviable, lasting relationship?

When we eat that uniquely Canadian dish — what we call “Hawaiian” pizza — are we insulting our wonderful Italian community? I better ask my good friend John DeCicco about that.

Some examples are clearly offensive, such as the wearing of what’s called “blackface.” But others seem less clear — dreadlocks as a hair style… hip-hop dance, or even rap music.

It could be argued that culture is something we shouldn’t put limits on, that each unique culture should be enjoyed by all. But it’s not that simple, is it?

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear twice daily Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on and CFJC Today. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (6241 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on EDITORIAL – The ‘cultural appropriation’ issue isn’t just about Halloween

  1. You are what you eat, the culture within your gut could always do with a little help !

  2. Yes putting pineapple on pizza is a blatant affront to Italian culture.
    Same as those cappuccinos found at local coffee shops, throughout the land.
    And Halloween, with its heavy reference to the macabre is an affront to the goodness of life!

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