Brooklyn, center of all things hipster and edgy, is home to a bar. That bar is hosting a party. That party is called “Madam Wu’s Good Luck Banquet of the Senses.” It is not edgy. It it also what one might call, rife with problems.
Ignoring for now the fact that the title is written in a font that I hate and that “Confucius say” jokes are still not funny, the event poster suggests dress for “travel along the Silk Road, tea with the emperor, dragon dancing, coolie couture, silk pajamas.” UM, no. Dressing as an indentured servant/basically slave is not desirable, encouraged, or acceptable. Hats off to a Facebook comment (and Jezebel) for thoroughly debunking “coolie couture”: “Coolies were Asian laborers – some of these laborers signed contracts based on misleading promises, some were kidnapped, some were victims of violence…Their voyages…were as inhumane and dangerous as the notorious Middle Passage.” And when this person says Asian, it wasn’t just Chinese, but also Central Asians, Indians, Filipinos, and Southeast Asians.
Apparently, the party organizers have apologized (somewhat), but also claimed that it was sort-of-ok because it was an art party, that it was a “theme based on the kind of art we like to make.” That totally makes it okay! Come on creative types, do something new. This is not me with a pitchfork yelling at all the people, it is me asking you to be conscious that these images and ideas have a long history – one of discriminatory public portrayals of Asians that were insidious and widespread within American society. Brooklyn is full of books, it might be worth reading about this and rethinking whether or not we can call this kind of theme, “art.”