Culture is not a costume: Consider whether your outfit is appropriating culture
By MACKENZIE HARD
When we think about Halloween, we usually get excited about our favorite candy, our festive decorations, but most of all, the costumes. However, some costumes are not appropriate for all people to wear. You must consider whether your costume is culturally appropriating a cultural group.
Cultural appropriation is when someone wears a costume or participates in an activity that portrays a culture that is not their own. It can be harmful and can be considered to be a violation of the property rights of the original culture. This can be included in traditions, foods, fashion, symbols, language, songs and even technology.
During Halloween, stores sell a plethora of costumes – you never know what crazy outfits you are going to find. But many stores sell costumes that are based on racial stereotypes. This encourages people who do not belong to the corresponding racial or ethnic group to wear something that does not belong to their own culture. These costumes are not just in poor taste or degrading, but severely racist. It comes down to respect and context.
Part of Halloween is being creative and being able to imagine yourself in another form or as another person or character. All over college campuses, we see people dressing up as various fruits, animals, or popular television and movie characters. These are all pretty great costumes, as long as the culture that is being represented is respected.
Cultural appropriation can be especially tricky on Halloween. Many are confused with what is and is not okay anymore. Think about the source, significance or sacredness, and similarity of the costume. Every year there are celebrities that dress up for Halloween and engaged in cultural appropriation by doing so- Julianne Hough, Heidi Klum, Colton Haynes, Paris Hilton . But this year, Kim Kardashian West was added to that list. This year her theme for multiple costumes was musical legends.She dressed up as Cher, Madonna, and then, R&B singer Aaliyah.
When she first shared this, many people on Twitter had something to say about it. Some people said it was wrong for West to do this because she is Armenian and Aaliyah is African American. Others said that it was not wrong of her because she did not use blackface. For example, If one were to look at Julianne Hough’s costume of crazy eyes from Orange is the from 2013, that could be considered a very racist costume since she used blackface.
The biggest issue to understand is that with each culture there are historical realities that are of major significance. Part of this is also being respectful and polite of one another’s cultures, along with being aware of the struggles that the culture of the costume you are putting on has gone through.