Halloween is almost here! As you start to plan your costume, remember that cultural appropriation is never okay. To ensure your costume is appropriate, think about the following:

What is cultural appropriation?

Cultural appropriation is imitating something from a culture that is not your own, often taken from a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. For example, wearing a Native American headdress can be perceived as making light of the genocidal history of the United States, while disrespecting or ignoring the significance and symbolism of the attire.

A culture is not a costume.

Although it is probably not your intention to hurt people, using a stereotype to represent an entire demographic of people can be harmful for individuals and communities. Remember Taylor Swift’s music video for “Shake It Off”? All ballerinas were portrayed as white women while black women were portrayed in stereotypical clothing and twerking in a line. This representation perpetuates negative stereotypes and places an entire population of individuals into one mold.

“But it’s just a costume.”

It’s not. Consider holidays like Cinco De Mayo. Americans dress up in sombreros and mustaches to celebrate, but society often looks down on people of Hispanic heritage for speaking Spanish. This contributes to the oppression of individuals who don’t have the same privilege to choose and are often societally punished for aspects of their culture you deem to be “just a costume.” Kylie Jenner sparked a similar debate when she wore cornrows in her hair. Women of color have been fired from their jobs for the same hairstyle, so why is it okay for Kylie? It’s not.

With all of this in mind, if you are preparing for Halloween and find yourself in any of these scenarios, here’s how to handle it.

If you’re questioning whether you should wear a certain costume.
You shouldn’t.

If you don’t want your boss or family to see photos of you in your costume.
You should choose a new costume.

If your planned Instagram caption for Halloween might come off the wrong way.
Don’t post it and pick a different costume.

If your costume represents a community or culture you are not a part of.
Isn’t this the definition of cultural appropriation? Pick a new one.

Stay safe, stay smart and stay informed. Happy Halloween!


Related post: HALLOWEEN SAFETY 101

This post was written by guest blogger Katie Brumfield, Alpha Beta–University of Michigan.

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