OPINION | Keep the happy in “Happy Halloween”

Asia Thomas, Contributing Columnist

Every year, there is a debate of whether minority character costumes can be worn by someone outside the minority. (Paige Douglass)

It’s time to leave the “Native American” costumes on the shelves.

My culture is not your costume. A serious tweet-turned-meme had a solid point: dressing up in cultural attire that is not of your own is both offensive and ignorant, and this Halloween, it needs to stop.

Halloween is a time for dressing up, a night to be something you are not. However, the line is thin between a fun costume and cultural appropriation. 

Not to get confused with appreciation, cultural appropriation is when someone who is not a part of a certain group, takes parts of that culture and wears it as their own. The aforementioned Native American costumes, mockeries of Asian cultural dress and Afro-style wigs are just a few examples of this phenomenon. These costumes are often misrepresented as cultural appreciation, but that is not the case. 

Wearing a usually cheaply made imitation of a cultural garment does nothing to appreciate a culture or tradition. To appreciate a culture would be to put in work towards understanding the traditions, not just putting them on for show. 

To be a marginalized individual and see someone outside of your community put on a costume resembling your culture with the intention to make a joke can be so hurtful, especially on a night meant to be fun. BIPOC communities have been ridiculed for so long for the way they dress, speak, accessorize, etc. It is a complete slap in the face for non-people of color to use Halloween as a day to roleplay these cultures without facing any of the same oppression or societal scorn. 

These marginalized populations are constantly at the forefront of jokes and mockery, and corporations have only contributed to this by continuing to produce costumes labeled “Western,” “Tribal” or “Native.” Cultural appropriation can and has taken away the joy of Halloween for so many, and we are too far into steps towards progression for such a preventable action to be accepted.

One scroll of Pinterest pulls up endless options of Halloween costumes that are unique, fun and will not offend entire communities. Blogs make it so easy and fun to navigate their list of the trendiest and most creative costumes of the year. Solo and group costumes evolve every year in new and innovative ways, so there is not much excuse for appropriating another culture. 

Costumes such as a fairy, an animal or a cartoon character can be crafted in so many different ways to allow you to stand out, and it makes Halloween more fun for everyone when you created something yourself and no one has to worry about getting hurt on the holiday.

As a general rule of thumb for this year and always, if you are feeling uneasy about your choice of costume, it might be best to choose something different. General intuition can be very helpful in deciphering whether something may or may not cause harm to another individual. 

There are also very standout pieces that are always unacceptable. Headdresses and kimonos are among the things that should never be worn by someone outside of the communities of origin alongside racially abusive practices such as blackface. Costumes should be fun yet chosen with sensitivity, and it should be noted that impact is always greater than intention.

Every year there is always the debate of whether minority character costumes can be worn by someone outside the minority. These situations vary case by case but ultimately the golden rule remains, if it might cause discomfort, don’t wear it. Stay away from the exaggerated stereotypes, and rather than attempting an exact replica of the character, go the Disney-bounding route and choose something just inspired by the character. 

I encourage these pointers to be taken into account in order to keep Halloween fun for everyone. It adds a level of compassion to your peers and strangers all the same when you put intentional thought into your chosen costumes. There are millions of costumes to choose from, so pick something uniquely to you and have a Happy Halloween.

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