Column: Their culture is not your costume
With Halloween steadily approaching, cultural appropriation is an issue worth discussing. Costumes come in all different genres: cartoons, eras, monsters, superheroes and more.
Among these are costumes that are both offensive and inappropriate, but what qualifies them as such? What exactly is an appropriate costume? How do we take other people’s cultures and religions into consideration?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, cultural appropriation is defined as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the practices, customs, or aesthetics of one social or ethnic group by members of another (typically dominant) community or society.”
Dressing up as another culture or religion that is not yours discredits those who are of that origin. Their heritage and lifestyle is not something to be taken lightly, especially in cases where those people have faced persecution or judgment in the past.
Hoss Brown, assistant director of Diversity Initiatives, gave an example of this with the Disney movie, “Moana.” According to Brown, dressing up as the character Maui is problematic because of the tattoos that he has.
“They’re sacred and people in that culture have to earn them,” he said. “When someone wears them as costume, it devalues all of their work and culture.”
Brown and I both believe there are some common misconceptions when it comes to choosing a costume. Just because a tragedy happened in the past, does not make it okay to imitate it now.
It would be insensitive of someone to dress up as a Holocaust victim because of the horrors they faced, which actually only ended 74 years ago. Those people were brutally tortured, starved and murdered. To dress up as someone who was so wrongly done is not only inappropriate, but honestly disgusting.
Blackface, where people paint their face/body black or brown to portray a person of color, is wildly wrong. Oprah is an incredible woman, but it is not okay for someone to paint their face black to dress up as her for Halloween.
When choosing a costume this year, here are some things to consider: other people’s culture, history and the implications of dressing in that attire. I also believe that it is best to stay in your own lane and let people celebrate their cultures in peace.
Though indigenous people are and continue to be awesome, it is not okay to dress up as them for Halloween.
This column is written with the opinions of one editor and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Pacer Times.