I just want to add that though it would feel weird for people of other races to cosplay Chinese characters as well, I don’t mind it because of colorism and the fact that they are underrepresented in media.
Well I understand where you’re coming from and this is an issue I’ve thought of for a while, but I do disagree.
1. What is always a complete no-no of course, is people yellow-facing (taping up their eyes or changing their skin colour to look more ‘Asian’) in cosplay. Perhaps the prospect of that happening is what makes you uncomfortable. But if they’re just putting on normal make-up, contact lenses and clothing and doing it because they like the character, not to mock- I don’t see why not.
2. Here’s the thing…I feel if we restrict cosplay this way, it accepts and perpetuates the idea of whiteness as the default that everyone else is supposed to feel capable of stepping into. It kind of makes non-white characters into a niche of sorts. So many of us East Asians already cosplay characters from other series who are white (i.e Marvel movies). Whiteness is already everywhere, we are already made to feel capable of seeing ourselves in white characters. I would love for it to be the other way around too, otherwise all this does is continue the hegemony of whiteness in popular culture. That’s why I think it’s great that series like Avatar, for example, respectfully and creatively incorporated references from Asian cultures to a Western audience. Same way how I think it’s nice that anime and manga is also read more widely outside Asia- the way I see it, it diversifies what has otherwise been the domination of US/Western popular culture around the world. People wanting to cosplay these characters is a natural outgrowth of it, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t, even if the characters are canonically of a different ethnicity. There are weaboos yeah, but if people are just dressing up for fun to show their appreciation for the series and not fetishising Asian cultures, I’m all for it.
3. Also, somebody deciding to cosplay a canonically Chinese or other Asian anime character is different from Hollywood casting a white actress to play an Asian character. That’s why I don’t see it as erasure. The person wanting to cosplay is dressing up for fun, Hollywood directors are making a movie to sell a story to the audience, they’re making money from it. They can and have the luxury of selecting somebody most appropriate. It is one thing for Ridley Scott to cast light-skinned actors of European ancestry as his ancient Egyptians. But the cosplayer themself is the performer and they can’t change their ethnicity or features. Not to mention, people also have the original character as a point of reference- people cosplaying La Muerte, for example, would follow a specific colour scheme and costume that people would recognise as “oh, the character from the Book of Life!” and would know it’s a movie about a Mexican holiday, the Day of the Dead. Same thing with anime characters. So while Disney should for example, pick people of the correct ethnicity to play their princesses in Disneyland, it’s totally different when it’s a cosplayer dressing up for fun.
4. Especially for me because I live in Europe…and like the idea of whiteness and non-white is so fluid? For example, there are many Central Asians who look “white” to me but they aren’t exactly seen the same way by other Europeans. So it feels extremely arbitrary if it were only “POC” who could cosplay non-white characters when for many people, their identity doesn’t fit into a white/non-white dichotomy… Bottom line, whether the person doing it identifies as white or POC, they have to be respectful if their cosplay involves clothing from somebody elses’ culture or a character of a different ethnicity. Therefore, the distinction isn’t exactly a white/non-white thing.
In conclusion, whitewashing is a serious problem, but I feel a white cosplayer cosplaying an Asian character =/= the type of erasure in Hollywood whitewashing when white actors are cast to play characters written to be Asian or non-white. There is a totally different motivation and amount of power a cosplayer has, compared to a film studio- and therefore different attendant obligations and responsibilities.