How does a white person dress for an Afrofuturism party?
May 15, 2018 3:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the thinking-about-it phase. Want to be respectful, obviously. And not make an ass of my middle-aged self. And I've been invited. So....?
posted by RedEmma to Human Relations (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm, have you seen Janelle MonĂ¡e's emotion picture, "Dirty Computer"? The white jumpsuits with the big D/number in the first 30 seconds might work. (Brief nudity, heads up.) Go as a dirty computer!
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:17 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Literally Afro-Futurism or more of a Wakanda theme? That would open the door to cosplaying Black Widow in Infinity War.
posted by w0mbat at 3:24 PM on May 15, 2018

Find pics of white people in Sun Ra's band; dress like them
posted by thelonius at 3:49 PM on May 15, 2018 [21 favorites]

can't go wrong with a silver jumpsuit
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:56 PM on May 15, 2018 [10 favorites]

The recent Tom Wolfe obit thread had an interesting point about Not trying too hard to blend in if you don't. Go with the basic Star Trek suit, pointy ears optional.
posted by ovvl at 5:47 PM on May 15, 2018

Black Lives Matter t-shirt and respectfully talking less than the Black people
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:52 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Lots of great suggestions here. I would 100% ask the host this exact question before making any costume plans.
posted by amaire at 10:55 PM on May 15, 2018 [12 favorites]

Dress as someone from Lord of the Rings and be the "Tolkien" white person?
posted by jillithd at 8:25 AM on May 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think I'd dress up like an astronaut -- just do the "futurist" part!
posted by yarly at 8:35 AM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Several questions seem germane here:

1. How well do you know the folks who invited you? If you know them well, can you just ask?

2. Is this more of a "fun costumes" party or more of a "political fundraiser with a theme" party? It seems like part of your goal is to enhance the fun of the party through matching the mood, so if it's the kind of glittering soiree where everyone is going to be dressed their best, I think you do want a futurist costume rather than a maximally stepping-back costume.

If it's not a glittery party, I think that a Black Lives Matter tee with a sharp outfit - like, interesting shoes, nice accessories, something current-looking - would be a way to convey "the struggle for racial justice is the future" without making a big spectacle of yourself. Do something to look dressed up and like you're making an effort, but not hog the spotlight.

But if it's a party thrown by people who really like costume parties you could try something fancier.

I find myself thinking of an early Afrofuturist essay, Kodwo Eshun's Further Considerations On Afrofuturism. You should totally read it if you haven't - it is both extremely accessible and extremely enjoyable to read, and it is structured in a wonderful SFnal way.

One of the things that I took from that essay was the construction of the future through the reconstruction of the past - that in order to move through time to the good future, we have to write a story of the past and present which lead there. Capital tries to control the narrative so that we can't move along those paths - tries to depict racism as natural, the past as a dead letter, Black subjectivity as nonexistant or unimportant, Africa and the African diaspora as sites of disease and null possibility.

So in a way there's Afro-pastism and Afro-presentism too, because constructing those stories is what leads us to the good future.

If I were going to construct a costume, I would try to think about what a white person would dress like in the timeline of the good future. I would also try to think about how much other party attendees would nerd out about this issue. If it's not a nerd party, I might just go with "glittering space future", with the implication being that an Afrofuturist future is going to be a glittering space future for all humans.

So I think I might choose either a "future anti-police-brutality protester" costume, combining the signifiers of today (like BLM tee, your usual protest gear) with future signifiers - high-tech seeming eye- or head-wear, maybe, or some kind of sign which is about the future - or an "after the revolution white person space look", like maybe it's the future and you're going on a mission to explore the galaxy. My "future protester" look would have sort of a backstory about how the fight for the future carries on, and I might even work some kind of "fight for the future" theme into my protest sign.

I might even draw on Terry Bisson's Fire On The Mountain, which is by a white guy but was considered "Afrofuturist" enough to be excerpted in Octavia's Brood - what about making some kind of "future space program" look - you could make a space outfit with a "Socialist States of America - Pan-African Union Joint Space Program" patch, or something. Like, imagine that it's the good future and you're part of some utopian enterprise.

(The frame story of FotM is that in the good future, the viewpoint character is traveling between the socialist South and the newly reconstructed North after returning from doing super-futurist research in a lab in Kenya, and reflecting on the Mars mission which is in process. The idea is that Harriet Tubman made it to Harper's Ferry to lead the raid, it succeeded and a guerrilla civil war was sparked, leading to a revolutionary socialist South and changing the entire history of the world.)
posted by Frowner at 9:22 AM on May 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

It really depends, as Frowner mentions, what sort of party--and what sort of level of costume--is expected. For a fun, sort of friends-at-Halloween or theme-to-binge-watch party, I'd get a day dress from one of the many African dressmakers/clothing shops on the internet. Something on the level of modern everyday dress, and put on a lab coat with an ID badge naming me as a lab tech in the Wakandan Design Group. Put some sort of vague "future tech" looking thing on your wrist or eye glasses. Then you're very lowkey identified as both in the future and in the theme.

there was one of those dress shops linked on Metafilter recently, but I can't for the life of me find it, nor in my browser history. It was just one cut of dress in a variety of locally-made fabrics and each dress was limited run because of the fabrics. I would think--with the caveat that I'm a middle-aged white lady in the US--if you buy an ordinary day dress from a shop using fabrics in one of the recognizable modern African styles and just wear it as the clothing is it, you'd be okay with some random "future" tech attached to your person.

If it's a glittery gala theme, I am less sure what I would do. There are African designers and designers of African descent all over the fashion world who are doing very glamorous things, but I don't know how you reference that recognizable without veering into problematic.

But you were invited, so I'd ask your host what they think is a good look for you.
posted by crush at 9:16 AM on May 17, 2018

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