Jonathan Turley wrote a column for the Hill yesterday about cultural appropriation and how concerns about that topic seem to peak each year around Halloween. Has the holiday become a net negative? Is it now just an “orgy of cultural appropriation?”

“Cultural appropriation” has become a common term on campuses and is receiving broader meaning with each passing year. In Utah, a high school student was denounced for wearing a Chinese dress to her prom. White students wearing hoop earrings or dreadlocks have been denounced, while there have been protests over serving sushi at Oberlin College, holding yoga classes at the University of Ottawa or having a “Mexican food night” at Clemson University. The reason behind such limitless forms of cultural appropriation is its limitless meaning. Fordham University law professor Susan Scafidi has defined the term as encompassing the “unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols” and more.

That makes Halloween a nightmarish orgy of cultural appropriation. Colleges and universities now post warnings not to dress as Native Americans, geishas, samurai, or other images. Syracuse University even threatened a few years ago to have its campus police force students to remove “offensive” costumes. There is remarkably little debate over such directives because many faculty members fear being labeled as racist or insensitive. What is increasingly rare is any dialogue or willingness to accept that people can hold good faith views on both sides…

A New York Times column gave a tortured account of whether parents could allow their children to dress as Black Panther…

An article by Sachi Feris explored her struggle with her young daughter who wanted to dress like Moana or Elsa last year. She wrote, “I had some reservations regarding both costume choices” and about cultural appropriation, noting the “power” and “privilege” carried by “whiteness” and the standards of beauty that go along with it.

Amazingly, some of the people involved in these films have rejected the hand-wringing and even criticized those who want to make the innocent fandom of children into a racial issue. Last week the actress who voiced Moana in the film said she hopes kids feel free to dress up as the character:

“I think it’s absolutely appropriate,” Cravalho said. “It’s done in the spirit of love and for Disney and for the little ones who just want to dress up as their favorite heroine, I’m all for it.” She added, “Parents can dress up as Moana, too.”

But the big question this Halloween has been about another character who had a huge year at the box office. Is it okay for kids who aren’t black to dress up as Black Panther? Yesterday the Post published a story in which the film’s creators said the answer was yes:

In interviews with The Washington Post, several creators who have helped shape the Black Panther character, along with other prominent authors who have written characters of color, are adamant: Any kid can dress as Black Panther.

“The idea that only black kids would wear Black Panther costumes is insane to me,” said Reg Hudlin, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker who has worked on Wakanda-set projects for both the page and screen, including the animated TV miniseries “Black Panther.” “Why would anyone say that?”…

Ruth E. Carter, the Oscar-nominated costume designer (“Malcolm X,” “Amistad”), created the beautifully intricate attire for Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” drawing inspiration from not only the comics but also from real-world designs in Africa.

She says the point in creating such Afrofuturistic art is to build not barriers but, rather, cultural bridges — and so fans should embrace that the world of Black Panther is “taking its royal place in the vast Comic-Con and cosplayer universe.”

So why are people posing this question over T’Challa now, Carter says rhetorically.

“The only reason we’re asking that question now is because the Black Panther is a black man. And I think that’s what’s wrong with people — that’s what’s wrong with parents,” Carter said.

It was only last week that NBC fired Megyn Kelly over her comments about blackface. She was also talking about Halloween costumes, suggesting that it might be acceptable in cases where the desire is to show affection or respect for the character in question, i.e. like Black Panther. Nearly everyone said that was over the line because of the ugly history of blackface stereotypes. So blackface is definitely out but Black Panther masks are in, at least for some people. Clearly there is disagreement over exactly where the line is at the moment.

And this is not a new phenomenon. Four days before Halloween in 2015, Erika Christakis, a Yale professor, wrote an email suggesting students should be trusted to make responsible choices about Halloween costumes. That led to black students on campus demanding Nicholas Christakis, Erika’s husband and the head of Silliman, one of Yale’s 12 colleges, apologize for her comments and the harm they had allegedly caused. Nicholas seemed prepared to do that but when the students suggested the comments in question were racist he refused to accept that characterization. That refusal only served to infuriate the students more and, as the discussion devolved, students began to demand Christakis be fired. This was, in many ways, the prototype of what happened at Evergreen State two years later and it happened over a discussion about Halloween costumes.

For the moment, it still seems to be a relatively small but vocal minority who think Halloween is cultural appropriation nightmare. As you can see above, even people working in Hollywood find some of these complaints strange and off-putting. But the generation that is now in college or grad school, i.e. the one complaining about serving Sushi or Mexican Food Night, is the one that is pushing this most forcefully. In 10 or 15 years when those social justice warriors are in positions of influence I suspect we’ll hear a lot more about how Halloween is a deeply problematic holiday.