EDITORIAL: Trick-or-treat ... cultures respectfully
Be cautious of appropriation when dressing for Halloween
Halloween weekend has officially passed and it seems as though Christmas decorations have almost magically appeared in the place of its decorations. But before you blindly look ahead to the upcoming holidays, it is important to take a step back about the passing weekend. Halloween is the only time of the year that celebrates pretending to be something else. What is thought to have begun as a Celtic festival to ward off evil spirits is now a fun and lighthearted celebration involving candy and costumes. However, it is not always all fun. Of all the “sexy” and “scary” costumes that roamed the streets this weekend, probably the most disturbing were those that appropriated cultures.
Many people find no problem with wearing Halloween costumes that can be seen as appropriating a culture. And this is not always due to ignorance on what is offensive or not. In fact, 55 percent of Americans admitted that they found no problem with people dressing up in costumes that offended other people. This lack of consideration probably stems from the naive thinking that this is other people who take things too seriously. People perhaps believe that the concern around discrimination is held to a higher standard than it should be and that a fun holiday should have no place for political correctness. These people are wrong.
You may think that there is no harm in painting your face, wearing a headdress and calling yourself a “Native American.” You may also think that putting on a sombrero, buying maracas from Party City and going as “a Mexican” without any knowledge of the culture is perfectly fine. People, who have no clue of its origination, might even think using “blackface” will make their costumes more accurate and is therefore acceptable. Well, it’s not. These are cultures that you are sporting, not costumes. In fact, these are not even cultures. These costumes are a blatant display of stereotypes that Americans have placed upon different cultures within the nation that we are either currently oppressing or have oppressed in the past. This resembles the idea of kicking people who are already down. How would you feel if you were living in a country whose foundation is built upon the invasion and destruction of your ancestors’ land and lives and you had to see some inconsiderate person taking the false labels that they have assigned to your culture and donning them in disrespectful ways? Our guess is that you would not be too happy. And even if it is hard for you to imagine yourself in that situation, or you feel as though you would not be affected by it you should take a moment to consider that other people might not feel as indifferent as you.
Some may argue that there can be a million ways to consider what can be labeled as cultural appropriation, and they are not incorrect. Dressing up as a person relating to specific race or culture may not always be looked at in a negative light. It all depends on what basis you are dressing up in your costume as. Someone who has a deep understanding of the culture they are representing and is doing it in a respectful way can be a good thing. However, sexualizing a minority or a sacred garb is disrespectful. People often turn to costumes that they think are funny and clever, but there is nothing comical about turning an entire culture into a parody.
All it takes is a little awareness and consideration to dress up as something that does not offend someone. So although Halloween has passed this year, just remember for next Halloween: You can go as anything you want, just don’t go as a jerk.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.