With Halloween quickly approaching, the pressure to discover of the perfect costume is growing. And that’s really no problem, because this year's noteworthy events have given us so many different things to dress up as! Choices may range from pop culture icons such as Beyoncé, all the way to comfy animal onesies. The sky is really the limit this Halloween. There are Halloween costumes, however, that cross the line of funny and spooky and enter the territory of disrespect. Those costumes are ones that appropriate the cultures of other people. Cultural appropriation occurs when things are considered weird or stupid on the people that they originated from, but deemed high fashion or edgy when the privileged take it for themselves.
With such a wide range of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds at Friends Academy, it is important to make sure that everyone in the community feels welcome and accepted for who they are. Certain costume choices make it almost impossible for everybody to feel comfortable during Halloween season at our school. Taking a traditional or sacred part of a culture and turning it into a costume is harmful and insensitive.
Examples of appropriation are everywhere in our society. Do you remember when everyone wore bindis, despite not being South Asian? Or the old trend when everybody would wear Native American headdresses to music festivals, with zero regard of the history or meaning behind it? That’s cultural appropriation. These articles of clothing or accessories are not fun things to wear to Coachella. They’re important and sacred to the people that created them. It’s especially wrong because for many groups, practicing their culture leads to persecution and profiling. It is a double standard when they are then considered cute and interesting on other people.
This might not seem like an important issue in our society to you. But as a young, black girl, it is an issue which affects me directly. Seeing people dress up as a stereotype of your people and mock who you are is detrimental. It hurts your self-confidence and makes you feel like you are not an actual human being. If you spend your entire life seeing others treat you like a joke, you begin to feel like a joke. Even if malice is not intended, it is almost impossible to properly dress up as a group of people. People cannot be costumes. They are not all the same and they do not have an overall look that can be emulated.
People do not like to be stereotyped.
People do not like to be mocked.
People do not deserve to be treated like costumes.
In the end, whatever you are wearing is removable. You can take off the sombrero or the turban or the face makeup and go about your day, but the people that you are dressing up as live their lives forever. They cannot rid themselves of any negative or positive associations with who they are.
So, this Halloween, I encourage everyone to be mindful of how they affect others with their choices. It is important to be aware of the stereotypes that you perpetuate every time you treat a real group of people in our society as a costume. Costumes are meant to be funny or fictional. They don’t exist to offend or degrade. With that in mind, have a great Halloween!