Our company throws lavish holiday parties every year. Last year there was a full-on carnival, with popcorn, booths, stuffed animals and spray-on tattoos. The buskers didn't care if you cheated and everything was free. It was a good time. But they've just announced the theme for this year's party: Exploring the Forbidden City. I got real nervous. My anxiety was only confirmed today, when a conversation started on our internal messages board about what to wear to the party. One person said they'd dress as Willie from the Temple of Doom, or perhaps Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill. Someone else (Asian) pointed out that Gogo is from the wrong country, ahem. The response: another person chiming in with, "Time to break out my fu-manchu mustache!" oh. my. gosh. I don't even know where to start with this. For one, it's always bugged me when people dress up (for halloween, etc) as generic "Asian people." White girls wearing kimono with chopsticks in their hair in the Castro, for example. My culture is not a character for you to inhabit for a night, like Gumby or Betty Boop. It has the nasty feeling of exoticization, fetishization, slumming. I think we can all agree that no one, no one would dress up in black face and be like, "I'm african!" so why is it okay to dress up as an Asian? And then I wonder, am I being too sensitive? Would it bug me if someone ran around in lederhosen going, "I'm German, look at me!" not really. But then again, Germans were the colonizers and Africans were the enslaved and colonized. And the main way that slavery was justified was by characterizing Africans as stereotyped, inhuman caricatures, so perhaps that's where the sensitivity comes in. But I digress. My question is: where do you draw the line between the Halloween fun of dressing up as a character --as something that you're not-- and being in the insensitive, dangerous arena of cultural blackface? Of course, I'm referring to crossing color lines --I feel like I have every right to dress up like Anna May Wong if I want to. And if I had a white friend who loved her and wanted to create a costume in homage to her, i probably wouldn't have a problem with that. But people showing up to a "Forbidden City" party wearing fake fu manchus? That makes me cringe. (Also, when someone suggested "Oriental dress" for the party, it made me cringe. Unfortunately, I wasn't surprised.) So, any suggestions as to how I can tactfully tell people that I will be ripping fake queues and mustaches off of people's heads if i see them? Or do you think I'm totally off base and should just go have fun and be glad them Chinese are finally getting some attention?