WALSH: Why Are People Offended By Cultural Appropriation On Halloween But Not St. Patrick's Day?

Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images

Megyn Kelly set off another round of disingenuous outrage yesterday when she suggested that perhaps it's not always racist for a white person to dress as a non-white person for Halloween. She argued that such a costume could be a tribute, something done with innocent intentions and in good fun, and therefore not in any way racist. Predictably, people lost their minds over this perfectly reasonable point of view and Kelly issued a tearful apology this morning. So commences another Halloween preemptively ruined by humorless left wing scolds.

USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers stated the liberal position with appropriate levels of self-righteousness: "Dear white people who are upset that you can't dress up as another race or culture for Halloween: your feelings don't matter. The only feelings that matter are of those who feel disrespected/mocked by you appropriating their culture for entertainment. Show some common decency."

No intelligent statement has ever begun with "Dear white people," and this was no exception. She says that only the feelings of the Offended Party matter. If a person feels that their culture is being "appropriated," then it is. This seems to be the consensus view among liberals. In an editorial published by the Cincinnati Enquirer, a white woman confessed to dressing her daughter as Pocahontas a few years ago. She says that she didn't intend to be racist, but she was racist.

This is all quite mad for many reasons, but I'd like to highlight just one:

St. Patrick's Day.

My ancestors are Irish. On St. Patrick's Day, a whole lot of non-Irish people dress like Leprechauns and chug beer. If I were to adopt the language of the Left, I might say that my Irish heritage is appropriated, mocked, and reduced to crude stereotypes. But I will not say that. And I don't think that any of the real Irish people in Ireland say that, either. I think they just laugh at us and roll their eyes. As for me, I go to a bar and join the festivities.

Nobody is offended by St. Patrick's Day. We all seem to understand that although people are advancing unflattering stereotypes about the Irish, they are doing it in good fun, and with affection, and I think even a bit of envy. Everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day, and so those of us with authentic Irish genes feel a bit of pride. We don't go around wagging our fingers. We let these poser Irish have their fun, and we feel good that we are only semi-poser Irish.

But where are the Leftist cultural purity defenders on March 17? Nowhere to be found. They lose their minds about "culturally insensitive" costumes and festivities on every day of the year except that one. Why?

Well, they might claim that it's only bigoted to "appropriate" the culture of oppressed people. The trouble with that justification is that it's completely arbitrary. But more to the point, the Irish were terribly oppressed for centuries. The history of the Irish people has been one misery after another. They've been persecuted, subjugated, killed, imprisoned, and starved en masse. They've been driven from their homelands and then discriminated against abroad. Yet we still drink green beer and eat Lucky Charms and represent their culture with ornery leprechaun mascots.

It doesn't bother me, personally. It doesn't bother anyone. It's all in good fun. That's the point. If we can gaze approvingly and good-naturedly upon a sea of drunken idiots with green wigs and "Kiss me I'm Irish" pins singing "I Would Walk 500 Miles" off key at a pub on St. Patrick's Day, why can't we extend the same understanding to people wearing ethnic costumes on Halloween? How can this massive double standard possibly be justified?

It can't. Double standards can never be justified. That's why they're double standards. But even if I can't prevent the double standard, I can at least decline to participate in it. That's why I'll laugh along with the revelers on St. Patrick's Day and the people in their perfectly innocent though supposedly "culturally insensitive" costumes on Halloween. There is no difference between the two.

What's Your Reaction?