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A Culture, Not Your Costume

Halloween is upon us! Although this spooky season it not my personal favorite, I recognize that it is one of the few times it’s socially acceptable for people of all ages to creatively express themselves and obtain candy from kind strangers. I would never want to suppress anyone’s imagination, but I do want to offer caution.

With Halloween in particular, cultural appropriation and racism are often capitalized upon– even if the intentions are not explicit. For those who might not be familiar with these concepts, you may have heard the slogan, “Our culture is not your costume.” This statement is a profound proclamation that individuals of specific cultural or racial demographic groups do not want to see their traditions appropriated by a member of the majority population. The most recognizable example is probably a Native American or Indian costume. Individuals might be drawn to colorful headdresses or the combination of unique clothing, which seems harmless, right? However, this costume in particular marks the long history of oppression Native Americans have faced at the hands of Whites. Therefore, it is very offensive to appropriate their culture as a costume because their ancestral experiences of pain, murder, and exploitation are nothing to display for show.

Another example is ‘black-facing,’ or a non-Black person painting their face black to articulate the race of a recognizable icon like Michael Jordan. This is also quite hurtful to African Americans, who have also endured a painful history of detriment and oppression.

In short, check your privilege and ensure that your costume represents an aspect of dominant culture that will not offend minority groups. If you choose to resist my advice rooted in a sociological context, you are welcome to do so. However, prepare yourself for the potential to have a conversation with someone who finds your ‘costume’ disrespectful.

Until next time, HCXO!

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