News flash: Your costume isn’t scary if it’s offensive

graphic by ana bilokin

It’s the most frightening time of the year. But we’re not talking about horror movies or scary costumes. We’re talking about cultural appropriation, folks. We at The Concordian thought it was a good time to dedicate this editorial as a reminder (read: warning) to not wear costumes that are culturally insensitive. Your “Native American costume” isn’t scary—the only thing that’s scary is your complete lack of respect for other people’s culture and history.

In 2018, we would have hoped everyone understood what cultural appropriation is and why it isn’t OK. But to refresh some of your memories, cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” That isn’t to say cultural appreciation doesn’t exist; you can still respect Japanese culture, and enjoy Japanese cuisine. But donning a kimono for Halloween isn’t respectful; it only suggests you believe the Japanese culture is a joke that can be worn as a costume.

When scrolling through Instagram the weekend before Halloween, it isn’t that surprising to see people still donning “costumes” that depict Mexican or Arab people. In fact, it’s also not surprising to see that stores like Party Expert still sell “costumes” that are culturally insensitive. Their website gives users the option to narrow down their search, and some of the categories for adult costumes actually include Arab, Gypsies, Indian and Asian. What’s worse is under the category of “Indian,” there are Native American “costumes.” Conflating Indian with Native American is something that might have been expected in the past—but it’s 2018, and shouldn’t we be a bit more aware by now? We have no excuse to live in a bubble of ignorance.

Ever think about how, during Halloween, there are no “white people” costumes? Probably because white people’s existence has never been ridiculed or oppressed. Their human rights have never been questioned as a group, and throughout history, they’ve been considered “superior.” That can’t be said about groups like Native Americans, Mexicans or Arabs. It’s important to understand that there is an entire history and context behind these cultures, and wearing them as costumes completely disrespects that. In a way, it strips their struggles and their stories to a simple Halloween getup that’s intended to be funny.

Most roll their eyes and sigh when they see reminders about cultural appropriation. But our goal isn’t to make you feel like you can’t do anything “fun” anymore. People who willfully disregard cultural appropriation are often those who shrug at political correctness. While that’s a whole other debate, political correctness has one main goal: to respect minorities who have struggled to gain equality over the years.

So please think twice before choosing a costume that’s culturally insensitive. Use the creative power you have (or Google) to come up with a costume that won’t hurt people and won’t disregard their histories. Happy Halloween!


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