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Halloween Costumes That You Should Not Wear

Costumes are mainly  for celebrating Halloween; however, it should be common sense to not wear certain costumes. More specifically, it should be common sense to not wear any costume that is cultural appropriation, that contains blackface, or that is insensitive towards other cultures. Cultural appropriation, according to Cambridge Dictionary, 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”.  Nonetheless, you’ll likely encounter someone dressed in an insensitive costume on Halloween, so, hopefully, this will serve as a reminder that dressing up as anything insensitive is not ok. Dressing up as someone from another culture is insensitive because it’s reducing a culture to just a costume and it’s just downright racist. For this reason, I compiled a list of things you should never wear on Halloween, or during any other holiday for that matter. 

Anything Involving Blackface.

At this point, we would think people would know that wearing blackface, or brownface, is racist. Therefore, it should not be done under any circumstances. Painting one’s face a different skin tone was popularised in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth century by “Minstrelsy”. This refers to a form of ‘entertainment’ where a white person would paint their face in a darker skin color and act in a very exaggerated manner; as well a pretending to be dumb, clumsy, and stupid. For racist white Americans at the time, this was entertainment, but thoroughly analysing this practice one can clearly see how inhumane and objectifying it was. In spite of the history, some people still consider doing blackface for Halloween. My advice: don’t do it. Don’t further stigmatise, ridicule, and dehumanise an ethnicity for a costume when there are so many creative and great Halloween costumes out there. For more information on why blackface is racist, check out this article

A Mexican Man. 

How could anyone forget that costume of a man with a moustache wearing a poncho and a sombrero?Sometimes, they’re wearing a mariachi outfit, holding a taco, or they have a pepper as a hat. Additionally, they’re portrayed as lazy, with a thick accent when they speak English, and they say “hombre” a lot. Since when is being a Mexican man a costume? These are real people with a rich culture that isn’t summed up by tacos, ponchos, and sombreros. Besides this, Mexicans, although they are the largest Hispanic minority group in the United States, are an ethnic group that is strongly discriminated against and taken as a joke. In fact, the president of the United States began his election campaign by talking about harmful stereotypes related to Mexicans. Furthermore, many Mexicans, and other Latin American people, are being held by ICE in, what can only be called, concentration camps in the U.S.-Mexico border. For this reason, skip this terrible costume that perpetuates harmful stereotypes about Mexicans. 

Anything Involving the Day of the Dead. 

As previously stated, Mexican man ‘costumes’ should be avoided at all costs, but another aspect of Mexican culture that is mocked is the Day of the Dead (‘Día de Muertos’ in Spanish). The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd where people honor and commemorate their friends and family members that have died. In Mexican culture, death is viewed as part of the cycle of life. So, for this holiday they celebrate the spirits of those loved ones who have passed away. They have altars with “ofrendas” (Spanish for “offerings”) and “calaveras” (Spanish for “sugar skulls”). Over the last few years, Sugar skulls have become a very popular Halloween costume choice for many people. They’re beautiful, but that does not make it okay for anyone to make an important staple of an important day for Mexican culture into a costume. 

A Geisha. 

Geisha’s are Japanese entertainers who specialise in music, poetry, and dancing, not sex workers;although, many people believe they are. For this reason, the stereotypical “sexy geisha” costume has become popular for Halloween. However, this costume takes away from an important aspect of Japanese culture and it adds to the sexualization of Japanese people. On top of this, they promote harmful stereotypes of Japanese Culture that are simply not true. 

Anything Involving Native Americans or Indigenous People. 

Any white person dressing up as any indigenous person is incredibly offensive, especially given everything that has happened throughout history. White people’s oppression of indigenous people has been documented extensively, yet very much ignored. That’s why you’ll see the “Native American Princess” or “Native American Chief/Chieftess” ‘costumes’ at many costume stores. Wearing a fake headdress, feathers, and  fringed dress with fringed boots makes a joke out of an entire culture and an entire group of people. Especially given the dark history behind the time during which the clothing was originally used. So, this Halloween, and every Halloween, skip the indegenous person ‘costume’ that ‘embodies the spirit of the tribe’. 


According to the National Organization for Women (NOW), the word “g***y” is a racial slur that has been used to discriminate against Romani people. They are an ethnic minority group that have been historically persecuted in Europe. For this reason, it’s insensitive to reduce a persecuted  group of people to a costume that is often described as one of “a free-spirited person who has wanderlust”. 

Any costume involving terrorists, real life serial killers, mass-shooters and dictators. 

No, it’s not fun to ‘dress up’ as a member of ISIS, a school shooter, or Hitler. So, skip dressing up as any of these. Nobody wants to show up to a Halloween costume party to see someone dressed as a mass-shooter or Hitler. It’s insensitive towards the victims of these terrible people

Items or pieces of clothing that are from other cultures should not be used as costumes; it does not matter if you have an appreciation for it, if you took a DNA test and you found out you’re 1/8th Native American or if your third cousin is part Mexican or black. Neither should you have to paint your face a different skin tone or dress up as someone that brought terror to thousands or even millions of people. There are so many other amazing and creative costume ideas that are not insensitive, that do not stigmatise and reduce a culture or an ethnicity to just a costume. Before picking out a costume this Halloween, and every Halloween that follows, think and do a little research as it will go a long way.

Hi! My name is Nacelyn and I'm majoring in political science. I joined the HC Inter SG chapter about two years ago and have since continued to develop my writing skills. My writing interests include politics and social issues, among other things. Besides writing, I currently serve as co-correspondent for the chapter.
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