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Our Culture is Not a Costume

Halloween season is upon us and, as most college students know, it’s time to go wild for a weekend. Whether you are going out to party, going to a haunted house, or doing any of the other multitudes of activities there are on Halloween, you have to have an awesome costume. While most people will go as a superhero, a mythical creature, or a cartoon character, others will choose costumes that rely on cultural and racial stereotypes.

Before I get anyone saying, “Oh, it’s just a funny joke” or “it’s meant to honor [insert culture]”, I am going to explain why cultural appropriation is not okay. Cultural Appropriation is when someone adopts a culture, or pieces of a culture, that is not their own. This adoption of another person’s culture has various destructive implications for those people. First, cultural appropriation takes away meaning from the culture and it’s history. When we boil down a group of people to stereotypes, we are p
utting the diversity of that group into one small box. Also, stereotypes are perpetuated ideas that have been used throughout history to marginalize different groups. 9/10 the stereotypes of a group of people, were created to dehumanize, and take away power from those people. Next, it separates the culture from white culture drastically. In our society, whiteness is the norm. Thus, if you are a part of another culture or race, then you are automatically an “other” and are seen as unnatural and unequal. This makes it easier for people to not only tease and ridicule a person for their culture, but also to act in violence and hate towards said group.
The sad part is that most of the time, people don’t realize that their actions or words are perpetuating said stereotypes. So, here’s a list of questions you should ask yourself before donning your costume.

  1. Is my costume representing a culture or race that is not my own? 

    If the answer is yes, then it’s more than likely not okay. If you’re not sure, most manufacturers don’t try to hide it. If
    you look at the costume’s name and it has some kind of slur, name of a culture
    , or word from a culture, then there’s your answer. Some common examples are “Adult Pleasing Geisha“, “Sugar Skull“, “Hey Amigo Mexican” or “Tribal Temptation“.

  2. Is my costume relying on cultural, racial, or ethnic stereotypes?
    First, look at the packaging and if the words, “ethnic”, “tribal”, or “authentic” are printed anywhere, then it’s safe to assume that the costume is a no go. Then ask yourself if the costume is attempting to objectify, make fun of, or dehumanize a group of people. For example, a “Sexy Indian Woman” costume objectifies native women because it is perpetuating the idea that they are all mysterious, sexual, primitive beings. Similarly, a “Sumo Wrestler” fat suit takes away from the rich culture of the Japanese martial art and boils it down to simply a joke.

In our society, we need to be hyper vigilante to the ways that other cultures and races are being presented.and speak up if we see any level of cultural appropriation. Now, you, too, can have a super cool costume without hurting another culture!

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