Civil rights activist explains objection to Pottery Barn Asian-inspired Halloween costumes

Oct 29, 2013, 11:50 AM | Updated: 3:13 pm
Pottery barn has apologized for costumes featuring a sushi chef and a kimono. The was also a baby sushi costume. Pottery barn has apologized for costumes featuring a sushi chef and a kimono. Pottery barn has apologized for costumes featuring a sushi chef and a kimono.
Pottery Barn has reportedly apologized for Asian costumes some found offensive. (Image courtesy Pottery Barn)
(Image courtesy Pottery Barn)

Pottery Barn has reportedly now issued an apology for a couple Halloween costumes it was selling after an Asian civil rights activist group spoke out.

The disputed costumes are a sushi chef, featuring a Japanese flag headband, and a kimono outfit.

A representative for Asian Americans Advancing Justice tells KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson the issue is not specifically with the costume designs, but with the fact that they are being sold as costumes.

“The reason why we found Pottery Barn’s costumes problematic is not with the attire themselves, these outfits are just traditional Japanese outfits. The problem that we found was that they were being packaged as costumes, as Halloween costumes, and that a national retailer was profiting from them,” says Ling Woo Liu, with Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

But Dori says he’s seen a lot of Halloween costumes that are based on different cultures and ethnicities.

“I have seen a Swiss Miss at a Halloween party. When I was back in college, Crocodile Dundee was big and I saw people wearing what was perceived to be Australian garb. I’ve seen people wearing Mexican clothing with the sombrero and all that,” says Dori. “I guess I get what you’re saying, but it sure seems like manufactured outrage to me when it happens to a lot of other cultures come Halloween time.”

Liu says she’s sure she could find some Swiss Americans who wouldn’t be thrilled about a Swiss Miss costume. But the main issue she says, is the negative impact a costume could have.

“For instance, there’s a popular Osama bin Laden costume that’s being sold out there. That is controversial at this point because we still have a frequent amount of hate crimes against Sikh Americans, other Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim Americans because of a certain look … But if someone is going to go out dressed like a Swiss Miss, is she or he going to incur comments, hate remarks, or violence?”

Is it likely that a sushi or kimono costume will increase violence against Asian Americans, Dori asks Liu.

“I can’t say,” says Liu. “But I would say continuing to strengthen certain stereotypes of minority communities as perpetual foreigners who don’t belong – it certainly has an impact on Asian American communities.”

Dori says he thinks the stereotypes of Asian Americans are pretty positive.

“There is no other group that I hail as much for its commitment to family, to education. Asian Americans do better than any other ethnic group that comes to America and I think that is a tribute to Asians and Asian Americans,” says Dori.

While many Asian Americans are thriving, Liu says it’s important to remember those who are struggling with low income, language barriers, and the like. She also cites a few instances involving hate crimes against Asian Americans, one as recently as 2012. Liu says an American service member, Danny Chen, committed suicide after enduring racial taunting and slurs from fellow service members.

But Dori says every race, Caucasians, blacks, Mexicans, and Asians, have all had hate crimes perpetrated against them.

“I guess I’m just saying to talk about a Halloween costume in context with any of that stuff [hate crimes], I think it diminishes any legitimate incidents that you may bring to light when we talk about something like a Pottery Barn Halloween costume,” says Dori.

“I certainly didn’t say that a Halloween costume is going to cause a hate crime,” says Liu. “But when you put out the image of Asian Americans all doing well, and there aren’t really any civil rights issues we face, I needed to (correct you.)”

Dori Monson on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dori monsonTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.

Dori Monson Show

Dori Monson

Dori Monson stage show...
MyNorthwest Staff

Watch: Dori Monson’s ‘What are the Odds?’ stage show

In 2019, Dori Monson hosted a stage show - 'What are the Odds?' - which introduced you to the people who helped shape his improbable career.
28 days ago
Dori Monson welcomes the Moose back to KIRO. Follow @
MyNorthwest Staff

A collection of the all-time best Dori Monson stories

With the passing of Dori Monson, a collection of some of his top stories to remember all the hard work Dori brought to Seattle.
1 month ago
Alaska, fishing...
KIRO Newsradio staff

Listen: Friends, colleagues offer tribute to KIRO Newsradio’s Dori Monson

All day Monday, KIRO Newsradio's John Curley talked to friends, news makers, and more in tribute to Dori Monson.
1 month ago
Dori Monson Shorecrest...
Dori Monson Show

How to support charities reflecting Dori Monson’s values, passions

In tribute to Dori Monson, learn more about how you can support these three charities which best reflect his values, passions, and advocacy.
1 month ago
Dori Monson Nicole Thompson...
MyNorthwest Staff

Broadcasters, politicians, coworkers and friends remember Dori Monson

Dori Monson, a longtime KIRO Newsradio host, passed away Saturday. He is remembered by public figures, broadcasters, coworkers, and listeners.
1 month ago
Dori Monson...
MyNorthwest Staff

Longtime KIRO Newsradio host Dori Monson dies at age 61

We are deeply saddened to announce Dori Monson's sudden passing on Saturday, December 31, 2022, at a Seattle hospital.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Civil rights activist explains objection to Pottery Barn Asian-inspired Halloween costumes