Cultural Appropriation in Halloween Costumes: Don’t Do That

As the title suggests, cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes is bad. I didn’t think I would have to tell you guys not to be racist, but some of the people I saw last Halloween didn’t get the message.


First off, yes, dressing up for Halloween as a culture you don’t belong to is racist. It is. I don’t care if your third-great-aunt-three-times-removed was Native American. You can not wear the costume.


Secondly, no, White children dressing up as Moana from Moana isn’t racist. They’re children who idolize the character, and they aren’t also doing brown-face. Dressing up as a character who isn’t White is not the same thing as dressing up as a stereotype of a culture you know literally nothing about. If you did know about it, you wouldn’t be dressing up as it for Halloween. Also, a costume is inherently different than being invited to wear cultural clothes for something, like a friend’s wedding.


So if you really want to dress like a character of a different race, don’t do any kind of black or brown-face, and don’t pick a character whose whole arc is based on being [insert race here].


I’m going to make a non-exhaustive list (aka, just because it isn’t here, doesn’t mean it's okay), to help us all through the process of being less racist here. Obviously, if you’re Black and want to dress as a Black character, you can do whatever you want. It’s your culture. But if you’re Black and want to wear a sombrero, poncho and speak in an accent, you are racist. Don’t do it.


1. Do not wear any kind of afro. If you are not a Black person, don’t even think about it. Not even a blonde one, exception for Napoleon Dynamite. For what reason you’d want to dress like him, I’ll never know. Leave it out of your 70s costume. There are tons of 70’s styles for your hair that don’t involve cultural appropriation.


2. Do not do a “Day of the Dead” themed costume. Yes, they are breathtakingly gorgeous, but it’s not your culture to use. I would encourage you also not to dress like a character from Coco, as the face paint is still kind of brown-face. Not a good choice.


3. Do not dress like a “G*psy.” First of all, that word is a slur, and I’ve only typed it out so you know exactly what I’m talking about. Fortune-teller costumes are also heavily veering into that territory, and you don’t want to go there. I get that the colors and the gold pieces are super pretty... trust me, I get it. But the Romani people have been oppressed for centuries, and the costume itself is an exaggeration of the very things used to hate on them.


4. Do not incorporate religious symbols into your costume. I’m talking Star of David, Buddha, Pagan Pentagram, even the Cross (though with our culture, it’s a little different and isn’t technically cultural appropriation, it's still disrespectful). If you’re dressing like Buffy or Van Helsing, a cross might be allowed. Just don’t carry one with Jesus around.


5. Remember the religious symbols? Also don’t dress like any kind of holy person. Priest, Rabbi, Imam, Monk, doesn’t matter. Don’t. Also, don’t wear those “Arabic” costumes. Very racist. Very insensitive. Don’t.


6. I might have mentioned before. Sombrero and Poncho? You’re getting kicked out of the house party (Pre and Post-COVID). Don’t come at me with that racist sh*t.


7. DO NOT DRESS AS A NATIVE AMERICAN! That’s a special kind of racist for Americans. If you don’t get why that’s racist, I think you should go through a couple of the links at the bottom of my article for Indigenous Peoples Day. And if I see you wearing a “Dead Indian” costume, I'm reporting you to your school, place of work, and every other place of work in your trade in the entirety of the Tri-state area. 


8. As for geishas, there is a little bit of confusion. American-born Japanese people usually regard this as offensive, but many Japanese folks aren’t bothered. We can talk about the effect of systemic racism’s role in this all day, but please, just don’t. It isn’t appropriate.


As a general rule for the others, I have three questions for you.


1. Is it a stereotype of any minority race or culture? Is that group considered a protected class?

2. Do you need to drastically change your appearance for it? Are you doing a cultural make-up look for it? 

3. Are you somehow making fun or making light of any historical tragedy? Does your costume rely on “ironic” humor for it? Is your costume the uniform of any oppressing force responsible for a genocide (if I see anyone dressed like h*tler I’m throwing hands)?


If the answer is YES to any of these questions, I would encourage you to find a different costume

Now, this is America, so I can’t have you arrested for being racist.

But if you do these things and get your life ruined, that’s on you. 

You made the choice to dress in an offensive way, and now you’ll pay the price for that choice. 

Basic consequences, people.


XOXO, Scaredy Cat.