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PC concerns - one way or another

So after six months of investigation, it is reported today that the police have decided that four carnival-goers in Aberaeron, Wales who ''blacked-up' and dressed as the Jamaican bobsleigh team from the film ''Cool Runnings'' were not being racist.

This is the latest in a number of incidents where, although certain costumes may be freely available, only certain people can apparently be allowed to wear them for reasons of Political Correctness and/or Cultural Appropriation.

PC has been with us for some time and involves not offending people with an an outfit which is either inappropriate or considered in bad taste. Unfortunately times change and so do attitudes - a TV station showing old B&W films was recently chastised when a film featured derogatory phrases 'of the time'. Thus in the Sixties and Seventies The Black & White Minstrel Show was an entertainment favourite on the BBC, with the white suited male singers made-up like Kentucky minstrels.. Like the Bobsleigh Team costumes, you can find outfits for them on the Internet but, rather like the little chap who used to be the mascot for Robinson's Jam, they'd now cause someone offense.

Similarly for a Pop Idol event, despite the availability of outfits for the many looks of Michael Jackson and other Motown .stars, portrayal is hampered if you're not allowed a change of skin colour.

This encroaches on the other recent issue - Cultural Appropriation. A few years ago Norwich Student Union took exception to the local Nandos offering free sombreros as a promotional gimmick because it disrespected Mexicans and their culture. A similar issue has surrounded those who used to be called Red Indians in the 50s and 60s and are now more often called Native Americans.

Basically, it can be tricky pretending to be what you're not if it panders to a questionable stereotype: Do all German males wear lederhosen? When was the last time you actually saw a French Onion Seller in stripe jumper and beret? Unfortunately pretending to be what you are not rather goes to the root of costuming and fancy-dress, so whatever you choose to wear, be careful out there - it's a cultural minefield!

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