Halloween And Cultural Appropriation: It’s Not Offensive If My Only Diverse Friend Approves, Right?

Harper: You’re Injun Joe? 

Injun Joe: Some people call me that. 

Harper: Why do they call you that if you’re not even Native American? 

Injun Joe: I guess I just identify with the culture and the aesthetic. 

Harper: Isn’t that kind of racist? 

Injun Joe: How is it racist to want to be more like another race? 

(Band of Robbers film, 2016) 


It’s that time of year again.  Leaves are changing colors, pumpkins are everywhere, and Halloween lurks around the corner.  BOO.  But there is something more frightful than chainsaws and clowns: cultural appropriation.  Cultural appropriation is a sensitive topic and needs to be treated accordingly.  There is a very fine line between appropriation and appreciation.  People often jump to conclusions and judge, but if we want to move forward as a society, we need to stop limiting different races to these stereotypical tags.  Remember to think twice before buying or making a costume, and you will be fine. 

The dialogue from Band of Robbers above questions if it is racist to want to be more like another race.  To break this question down, we must first examine how and why other cultures dress and behave.  Some cultural or religious practices require their people to dress, act, or speak a certain way.  Their beliefs may be sacred or their garments representative of hardship.  Because of this, it may be viewed as offense or mockery when someone of a different race partakes in their customs.  For example, Native Americans used to wear headdresses to express power and gallant.  Chiefs would wear them into battle and warriors earned a feather each time the tribe felt they did something brave.  Unless your family are descendants of the Native American heritage, you should avoid wearing a headdress, Pocahontas, or Sacagawea garb. 


Another form of controversy surrounds Katy Perry and her Black and Asian appropriation.  Viewers quickly noted of her offensiveness in music videos “Bon Appetit” and “This Is How We Do”. 


In the latter video, elements of cornrows, watermelon, Japanese-styled nails, and basketball were all heavily present.  These elements often come to mind when thinking of stereotypes for the African race.  In African culture, cornrow hairstyles are worn for religion, kinship, status, age, and ethnicity.  A report belonging to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute describes how cornrows were first identified in clay sculpture in the Nok civilization of Nigeria in 500 BC.  However, if someone of non-African race wears cornrows today, it could be seen as mockery or cultural appropriation.  That is why many people criticized Perry, and talentless harlot Kylie Jenner, for wearing cornrows.  While Perry has apologized for her behavior, this is still unacceptable. 


Wait, it’s not offensive if my only diverse friend approves, right?  Wrong.  While your close friend may say it is okay to wear a garment from their own or a different culture, everyone else will still view your costume as cultural appropriation.  This is where we meet the fine line of appreciation versus appropriation.  Let’s say you studied abroad in France.  While you may have good intentions with your costume consistent of a striped shirt, red hat, and baguette, not everyone will see this as appreciation (if you call those stereotypical tags appreciation).  Since Halloween is only one night, it is not worth it to dress up or flaunt another culture’s practices.  In general, avoid wearing a geisha, burka, baja hoodie, day of the dead makeup, belly dance costume, headdress, cowboy boots, or any other notable cultural item.  And for the record, just because your child wears one of these items does not make it right - it is still appropriation. 


In general, the line between appropriation and appreciation is careful and some costumes may not have the best intentions.  Adding a “sexy” to something also makes it worse.  People of varying races may choose to identify with a certain culture and behave, dress, or believe correspondingly.  However, since we do not know the origin of their customs, we cannot judge.  If you appreciate a culture and choose to identify with it, like “Injun Joe”, then you should research and learn how to appreciate the culture respectively outside of the Halloween season.  Avert offense this season and dress up sensibly.  Remember: that is a culture, not a costume. 



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