- Michael Techmeyer
- Keziah Daum is an 18-year-old girl who wore a Chinese dress to prom.
- She has been criticized for being racist, and for culturally appropriating Chinese fashion.
- What her critics are missing is that Daum’s actions are good for anyone who seeks an integrated and unbiased world.
Last week, an 18-year-old named Keziah Daum posted pictures on Twitter of herself, her date, and her friends at their prom. The social-media moment quickly devolved into something more sinister.
— Keziah (@daumkeziah) April 22, 2018
Within a few days Daum’s tweet – and her life – blew up.
In a tweet that’s since gone viral, a guy named Jeremy Lam retweeted Daum’s post.
“My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress,” he wrote.
Many people agreed with Lam, accusing Daum of being a racist who was culturally appropriating Chinese fashion and history. Writing in the Independent, Eliza Anyangwe wrote that “the debate [Daum’s] prom pictures have prompted is justified,” and that “cultural appropriation is about power, and to many she’s the embodiment of a system that empowers white people to take whatever they want.”
I spoke with Daum about why she chose to wear the dress and about how she’s been handling the fallout. The 18-year-old is facing the criticism with composure and grace, and she’s been a model for how well-meaning people who get caught in the crosshairs of social-justice absurdity should comport themselves.
She told me that her critics didn’t understand that she “admires Chinese culture and loved the beauty of the dress.” She said she wanted to showcase that by wearing it.
I asked how she’s handled being called a racist.
“The people who are responding to this in a negative way don’t fully understand the whole story and the reason I wore the dress in the first place. It’s important to be aware of intention, and my intention was to show my admiration for this culture,” she said.
I asked Daum what’s been giving her the strength to stand by her convictions. She’s told several outlets that she doesn’t regret wearing the dress and that she would wear it again. She told me she knows “you can’t please everyone,” and that “there’s always going to be someone who will disagree.”
“I know what I did and why,” she said, adding “the support that’s coming in from China is how I’m staying strong.”
Daum was referring to an article from the South China Morning Post, which cited many Chinese people who had commented in support of the teen. She also saw some support on social media.
Such a reaction is rare in our current political climate. Ours is an age that is obsessed with diversity and integration, yet bizarrely draws lines that seek to separate people and cultures.
Here’s a brief thought experiment: If Daum had walked into the store, seen an eye-popping beautiful red dress, ventured to try it on but then chose not purchase it “because it was Chinese,” we would be having the same conversation – and accusing her of being racist – only that scenario would merit the charge.
To smear Daum in this way is totally diminish the meaning of the word racism into nonbeing, and to do a disservice to those victims of real – not imagined – racism.
And in the long run, the idea that a forced separation of cultures – with strict rules about who can wear what, or eat or listen to what – would be good for minorities is one that would backfire. Badly.