My Culture Is Not Your Costume

Halloween is just around the haunted corner. The talk of Halloween Weekend has already begun, and one of the main topics is costumes. Are you going sexy this year? Following a pop trend? Worried about the weather? If you need ideas, go check out our other Halloween themed articles! Specifically, this article will be covering the important topic of Cultural Appropriation. Before you make any assumptions, this will solely be explaining what cultural appropriation IS, so you can go into your ‘Halloweekend’ well informed. Knowledge is power, and openly having these conversations is how we can grow as a society. 

To start, cultural appropriation is a big word that can be broken into two parts.

1. Culture: “the beliefs, ideas, traditions, speech, and material objects associated with a particular group of people” (Thought Co., 2019).

2. Appropriation: “illegal, unfair, or unjust taking of something that doesn't belong to you (Thought Co., 2019)

Now that you know the separate definitions, combined simply means taking and using someone else’s culture unjustly. You might be thinking “How do we know it’s unjust?” That question opens another term that is called Cultural Exchange; the mutual sharing of cultures. Cultural Exchange is the correct way to explore another’s culture, even through dress. Knowing this term will clarify why Cultural Appropriation is a very real thing and one we should all be against. 

You can see Cultural Exchange through cultural events at Ohio University. Our school holds African Cultural Week, the International Festival, Chinese New Year Gala, and more ( These events are examples where dressing in cultural attire is appropriate and even respectful. Participants would be learning and appreciating a new culture from those who are a part of it.

Halloween, on the other hand, is not an example of respectfully wearing a culture. Native American dress, Afro hair, Day of the Dead makeup, and Asian costumes are not appropriate. Wearing religious and meaningful garments as a costume is not respectful or appreciated. Often times costumes based on these cultures, and others, are over-sexualized, stereotyped, and inaccurate. Read more about over-sexualization and stereotyping of a Native culture at

Ohio University wants to create and encourage diversity and inclusivity for groups of people that have been excluded or silenced in the past. This year, have fun, be safe, and don’t continue the trend of cultural appropriation.  

If you need more help deciding if your costume is culturally sensitive, visit ( and read about the three key points. 

For more resources: