Editorials & Opinions

Halloween costume or cultural appropriation?: My culture is not an ensemble

By Reana Palmer, ‘18

While most college students have grown out of trick-or-treating on Halloween, it is still fairly normal for them to dress up for the holiday related events. Whether that is a party, festival, or small get together. The hardest part of Halloween is choosing a costume for the night, and it is important to note that someone else’s culture is not something to try on for size.

It hasn’t been unusual to see Pocahontas garb, samurai robes, or corn rows utilized as a costume on Halloween, and most people dressed as these do not come from the portrayed background. It may seem like an irrelevant issue to those people, but to the people whose cultures are stereotyped it is devastating to see.

The color of their skin and the culture they grew up with is not something that should be made into a costume, because unlike most, they cannot remove it at the end of the night.

Non people of color (POC) do not know what it’s like to be stereotyped and even shunned for just being themselves and embracing their roots, and it is insulting that they want to “dress up” as someone who has gone through a lifetime of discrimination. Native Americans for example had their dignity and their lives stolen from them during the trail of tears era, and some think it is okay to put a feather in their hair and wear traditional face paint for one night. A lifetime and more of hurt does not equate to a costume idea.

Cultural appropriation is a term thrown around often with a negative connotation. People make the argument that those who are offended are only defensive because they are “hypersensitive,” and that cultural appropriation isn’t a real concept. It is true that what you choose to wear is a part of your first amendment right to free speech, and nobody is trying to take that away. The issue is much bigger than that; it’s about the impact you’re making on those around you.

If there’s a thin grey line between a costume idea and someone else’s culture, it’s best to stray away from it. Let’s stick to cartoon characters, book heroes and movie heroines instead of stereotypical racist outfits.

It takes an effort to put your best foot forward this Halloween season, and it costs $0 to make sure you’re not making anyone around you feel uncomfortable or scrutinized.