Halloween: pumpkins, candies and racially insensitive costumes! As the days leading up to Halloween begin to slip away, people rush to browse the aisles of countless Halloween shops to choose their favorite generic, mass-produced costume. With a wide range in price and detail level, you are able to purchase almost any custom you desire.
Sadly enough, many of the costumes offered by today’s market are racist. The topic of cultural appropriation is a sore subject since many people have yet to grasp its meaning.
Cultural appropriation can be defined as a “sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon.” It is the capturing of a certain culture’s aspects and manipulating them in an entertaining way, all the while disregarding the true meaning of that culture or any of the struggles its endured.
Cultural appropriation is the countless sexy Native American costumes displayed during this holiday. As Dakota artist and activist Bobby Wilson explained it, we’re fixated on this idea that native people are “frozen in time.”
It furthers the notion that the Native American population ceases to exist, and is a culture that died out during the time that the white settlers took over. It also ignores the rampant number of sexual assault cases that occur on Native American reservations. Indigenous women are three times more likely to experience violence in their lives than their white counterparts. One may be able to take the headdress off after a long night of eating candy and drinking apple cider, but Native American people will still wake up with hundreds of years of genocide in their history.
In 2015, Walmart put out a controversial costume titled “little amigo,” which depicted a little boy in a sombrero and a mustache. It was quickly discontinued due to backlash, but that doesn’t ignore that fact that there are millions of similar costumes being manufactured. Not only is the costume inaccurate and incredibly racist, it ignores that fact that a white person who dresses up as a “Mexican” in Arizona doesn’t have to worry that his citizenship will be questioned. You’ll never have to go through the emotional journey that 11.7 million undocumented immigrants must endure.
The female geisha costume, or any Asian woman costume, perpetuates the hypersexualization of Asian women and okays the objectification that comes with being of Asian descent.
Wearing a beanie with dreadlocks doesn’t show your undying fandom to Bob Marley, it objectifies the Rastafarian religion as a whole. The roots of black face can be traced all the way back to the slave era, where minstrel shows were performed in black face, with the sole purpose of negatively depicting African Americans and dehumanizing them. You may paint your face with black or brown paint, but you are still less likely to be stopped by police, or be racially targeted.
In lieu of Halloween this year, the Ohio University club Students Teaching About Racism in Society, or STARS, published an campaign with the title “You wear the costume for a night, I wear the stigma for life.” This all seems particularly relevant to us college students who enjoy dressing up and going to parties around Halloween. Just remember when you’re picking out what to be this year: it’s a culture, not a costume.