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Sean Dao

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The Qipao Incident Reveals a Darker Issue: Whiteness as a Gatekeeper to Ethnic Culture

Editor’s Note: Sean Dao is a 22 year old Vietnamese American male. He was born and raised in Maryland and currently teaches high school science in Texas. He seeks to serve as a rational voice for the Asian American community. The views expressed in this piece are solely his own.

On April 22nd, 2018, Keziah Daum, a high school student from Utah, posted a set of photos of herself and her friends on the way to prom on Twitter. In these photos, Keziah is wearing a qipao or Cheongsam dress; a culturally significant garment of Chinese origin. She identifies as white. The dialogue has been focused on whether her actions constituted cultural appropriation and there is tension on both sides as whether she is respecting the qipao. When you break down this incident, we are ultimately arguing whether an 18 year old girl is being racist or not. It is objectively a small event that is being blown out of proportion. I would like to, instead of feeding into this argument over cultural appropriation, examine the deep systemic racial issues that this incident is a symptom of.