Speaking as a nerd, I’m accustomed to being a member of the minority. Frequently, the silent minority. As of lately though, I’ve been harboring feelings of resentment about something I love. Confused? You should be. You see, I’m a nerd, which puts me in a minority. I participate in Cosplay, I attend conventions and participate in various other geeky interests. I love doing it. I revel in the close community of friends that being a Congoer has grown around me. This being said, I’m also not white, which makes me a minority within a minority. That by itself isn’t a problem. I’ve rarely had problems socializing with other nerds, and it’s infrequent that I meet a social gap that I can’t bridge through mutual love of various fandoms and interests, but there is one aspect of nerd culture that is notoriously intolerant, and begets three major issues regarding race that most fellow nerds don’t seem to recognize. I’ll outline them here.
1: Lack of cosplay for other races Cosplay usually comes from a fair amount of popular media. The average nerd doesn’t control what Hollywood or various entertainment corporations feel like funding. If they did, Firefly would probably still be alive and well. As a result, there’s a fairly minimal number of racially accurate costumes available for people of other races. There’s really nothing anyone can do about this, at least not without a widespread acknowledgement of the issue and a demand for change. “What does that have to do with anything?” You might ask. ”People should be allowed to cosplay what they want to cosplay!” I Agree. So if I, a person of a race other than white wants to costume a character generally identified as white, I don’t believe that anyone should take an issue with it- which leads me to my next point.
2: Complaints about racially inaccurate cosplay As I stated before, I believe a person should be allowed to cosplay whichever character/gender they want without acceding to judgement of snide remarks of any kind. If I want to cosplay as any character, I should be able to regardless of my race or gender without being forced to listen to your objections. I had a couple of unpleasant experiences at Dragon*con last year while I was cosplaying Flynn Rider. A few people had asked what my costume was of, and turned to make snide remarks among themselves about how ‘Flynn’s white’ as soon as they turned around and believed me out of earshot. They had the courtesy to at least not say it to my face, but I believe that was more because they didn’t want to out themselves as bigoted douchebags. Racist behavior in a private setting is still racist, and doesn’t make you any less racist.
3: Fairweather support about race in cosplay/hypocrisy There are a fair number of people who would agree with everything I’ve posted thus far. People who are inclined to nod, and agree that the people mentioned above are racist bigots and should be shunned. These very same people might also agree that I should be allowed to costume whatever I wish regardless of the character’s skin tone or my own. Some of these people choose to cosplay characters of a darker skin tone. When they do this, it is common to Tan or spray tan. These cosplayers change their skin tone for a costume. Pause and think for a moment the message that this sends out. For those of you that still don’t get the hypocrisy that I find upsetting, I’ll spell it out.“I will change my skin tone because I can. You cannot.” I guess it’s a lot easier to tell someone to just accept their skin tone when you don’t have to follow the same rules. After all, skin bleaching is far more difficult that tanning (from a can or otherwise). This is a far departure from the message of acceptance that these very same people choose to preach. It’s convenient for you to cosplay a white character because that’s your skin tone. It’s also easier to wash off self-tanner between costumes. The use of self tanner in cosplay is nothing more than a politically accepted form of brownface, and sends the message that it’s okay for you to change your skin tone because you can. I’m not saying you shouldn’t cosplay those characters: I’m just saying you shouldn’t change your skin tone to do it. If you like the character, go ahead, Cosplay them. Use makeup to alter your features a touch. Just lay off the tanning/brownface, and we’ll call it even.