Halloween just passed, which means millions of Americans prepared outfits and bought costumes. Halloween is supposed to be fun and lighthearted, but among the traditional superhero costumes and princess gowns, people are also choosing to dress up as other individuals, wearing costumes that imitate different races and cultures.
All across the U. S., people are dressing up as someone else’s culture without batting an eye to the ignorance behind it, also known as culture appropriation. Culture appropriation is defined as “adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture.” People don’t consider the fact that their costumes are stereotyping another culture or ethnicity, but the hidden truth is that they are playing dress up in a heritage with thousands of years of injustice and suffering behind it.
Most people dress up as other cultures with pure motives, but regardless of intention, these Halloween costumes stand as a mockery and stereotype, overlooking the struggles of that culture’s people. For example, dressing up as a Native American and mimicking their customs for a costume is seen as highly offensive as it completely disregards the mass genocide and cultural assimilation forced on indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the tensions caused by white people towards Native Americans in the past is also a reason why imitating their culture is seen as immoral. Dressing up in a culture that one’s ancestors raped and killed seems unfair, doesn’t it?
Additionally, victims of culture appropriation find it off-balance for people outside of their culture to represent them, and poorly at that. When people recklessly put on costumes with tacky feathers, random facial markings, and headdresses to try to copy indigenous customs, they put no thought to the symbolism that resides behind it. Each feather, a token of bravery and strength. Every shade of face paint embodying something distinct and powerful. The distinguished headdress resting as an emblem of heroism and worn by only the most powerful chiefs and warriors.
So for Halloween, make sure your costume isn’t appropriating someone else’s heritage and history. Each culture has a meaning behind every piece of clothing, ritual and practice, etc., and imitating these traditions and customs turns a blind eye to the true beauty of each unique culture.