Party photos are my favorite staple of the Facebook feed scroll-down. There’s something about photo-evidence of people’s regrets that puts a smile on my face. These strange reminders of intoxicated nights can sometimes be tone-deaf. Don’t believe me? Recently I saw a photo in my feed depicting a group of white girls with fake mustaches, huge party store sombreros, and Olmeca tequila shots. The tone-deaf caption read, “Mexican Themed Party!” I know these girls, and I’m the closest thing to Mexican they know. I’m fucking Indian. They’re not exactly in a very culturally expansive circle. From what I could tell there were no people of Mexican heritage at this “Mexican” party. So, really the theme of this party was blatant dumbassery.
I’ve witnessed this kind of stuff first hand. My family has been invited to Indian themed parties, where we made up almost their entire list of Indian attendees. It’s one thing to throw a party in celebration of your own culture but it’s another to celebrate someone else. In fact it often comes across as flat-out disrespectful.
Let’s be real, when it’s all white people in saris and kurtas making vapid hand gestures, dancing around flaunting ignorance, you’re not throwing an Indian themed party. If everyone’s giggling because they feel silly ― yeah, maybe they should. They’re not committed to learning about a different culture, they’re just using it’s surface-level “otherness” as a means of entertainment.
Also, by inviting me, or my parents, or anyone of Indian descent to this party - it’s putting out the message that this is how you view my culture, as something to joke around with. But it comes with a huge caveat: If anyone is hurt by this they’re a snowflake.
Fine. But at least commit to that belief and don’t get pissed when I throw white-themed parties. Which are all surprise parties we don’t tell you about. We just kind of show up on your land, redecorate and shit. We’ll talk about only things that interest us and make you do all cleaning when we’re done.
Seriously, you wouldn’t like it. But here’s the thing, you can introduce others to a new culture with the right points of emphasis. You just have to approach things in the right way. So I made this handy guide for you.
First, let’s drop “culture as a theme”.
To do this, make some new friends! Actually be friends with people from all kinds of cultures and genuinely get to know who they are. Make an effort to see past all the surface level bullshit. While people may be from similar geographical locations or racial identities, their cultural backgrounds might be completely different. Plus, actually knowing people will hopefully prevent exoticization and likely quell the bizarre need to have a party themed around the condescension of someone’s personhood.
Invite your new friends to a party.
Now that you have genuine friendships with people from all over, invite them out. Not because some of them are from East Africa and some of them are French speaking Indians from Mauritius but because they’re the people you get along with.
Get your friends to bring their favorite foods and music that’s unique to their culture.
If they’re comfortable doing so, this can be a great way to expose people to new things. You’re now celebrating several cultures because that’s what’s representative of your friend group, instead of singling one out and inevitably making your friends from that culture feel like the representatives of every human who looks like them.
Listen, this is a party and honestly, I want to see at least some sparks fly. If your party can result in at least one mix-race baby, that’s a massive win for the future.
Culturally themed parties are about bringing a lot of dope unique flavors together and appreciating those differences. If we only acknowledge difference, but fail to see how those differences come together to create something special, we’re blowing it as a human race.