The controversy over a Utah teenager wearing a Chinese-style dress to her high school prom is a glaring example of the ill effects of social media. It also shows that too many people have too much time on their hands worrying about other people’s lives.
You have heard the story. An 18-year old from Woods Cross High posted a photo on social media of her prom dress. Since the girl isn’t Asian, a few people thought the photo offensive.
“My culture is NOT your prom dress,” wrote an Asian male. “It is offensive for it to be a subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience.” Similarly, an Asian woman wrote that she wouldn’t wear clothing that was traditional Irish or Greek or even Korean or Japanese.
Social media was the culprit, not the dress. In an earlier pre-Twitter era, an idiot could spout foolish opinions – and the only two people listening would be his beer-drinking buddies at the tavern. Now one guy posts his thoughts online and it will be re-tweeted to many thousands (more than 50,000) in the case of the Chinese-style dress.
The teen who bought the dress responded that she meant “no harm and is no way being discriminative or racist.” She was also being part of an American tradition.
The United States is a melting pot; we borrow and appreciate products, language, traditions, styles, and recipes from different cultures. Otherwise, a white man couldn’t listen to jazz, dine on ravioli or sushi, play checkers, or party on May 5. We don’t tell Mexican Americans they can’t eat a hot dog and we don’t tell those whose ancestry is European that they can’t celebrate on July 4 and eat fried chicken, and we don’t tell Asians that they can’t give out candy on Halloween.
Utah has seen previous controversies over high school prom attire, typically centered around a school principal or PTA mother concerned over a girl showing “too much skin.” Considering the problems we have with teen suicide, gang association, disparity of test results, and drug use, a school administrator should have more important challenges than drawing out a ruler and measuring the length of a prom dress.
As a country and state, we need to return to the basics – be kind, try to learn something every day, help others in need – and refrain from bullying and criticizing others whose actions don’t impact us. A teenager texting while driving on I-15 is a danger…a teenager wearing clothing rooting in a different culture doesn’t hurt any of us. (I feel the same way over a patient using marijuana to dull his or her pain; it doesn’t hurt you, so butt out.)
Life would be quite simple without rancor over things that make little difference. In a recent interview, actress Melissa McCarthy spoke of level-headed wisdom she gained from her 74-year-old mother, “starting with the fact that the world is a nicer, happier place if everybody has a sandwich.”
And I don’t care what you wear when you are eating it!