Senior Suggestions: This holiday, pick a good costume, not culture

rena_WEBHalloween is the holiday where you don’t have to be yourself. You can be anything you want. You can be an animal, a crayon, a bumblebee, an oxymoron or a literal representation of a phrase. However, there are some costumes we should be mindful not to wear. Some costumes misrepresent aspects of other people’s culture or might just be offensive.

Using Halloween to represent a culture without any knowledge about it is cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is becoming an issue when it comes to costumes. In 2015, The New York Times briefly defined cultural appropriation as “pretending for fun or profit to be a member of an ethnic, racial or gender group to which you do not belong,” in an article titled “Halloween Costume Correctness on Campus: Feel Free to Be You, but Not Me.”

This is a problem. When it comes to religions or spiritual objects, we should not mock them. Halloween is not a holiday in which we mock other cultures. It is a day we dress up as our favorite characters or jokes to collect candy from strangers.

There have been many articles on how college students are becoming too sensitive, too “politically correct.” But I call it being a decent human being. There are traditions behind articles of clothing or items that not everyone understands and wearing it as a Halloween costume is disrespectful. Someone else’s lifestyle should not be made fun of or treated as a joke. It makes the culture lose its legitimate significance in the eyes of the public.

There are exceptions to this rule. If you are wearing traditional Indian attire at an Indian wedding your close friend invited you too, and your friend has shown you the correct way to wear these items, then this is okay. This is not appropriation. This is correctly participating in a culture in a respectful way. You can educate yourself about a culture in order to say or do or wear things correctly. But don’t ignorantly steal another person’s culture to use as some butt-end of a joke.

The New York Times, in the same aforementioned article, said “that the melding of cultures is often about which group has the power to take symbols, styles or language from another.” White people have been stealing everyone’s culture since the beginning of colonialism. Maybe even before then. This is why we shouldn’t appropriate. None of us should have the power to take culture from other people. We can learn about other cultures, and we can participate once we are educated. As people, all of our cultures are significant, so we should not disrespect.

Listen, I’m not here to ruin your Halloween plans — by all means, dress up. But please stay away from costumes involving questionable actions or themes such as black face, headdresses or clothing with religious implications.

Halloween is not to deride culture. In fact, it isn’t even to dress up and collect candy; it’s a holiday to remember the dead where some people go to church, but as Americans, we already ruined that.

So dress up as Ben Franklin, or student loans but not a menorah or a Native American. Be you for Halloween, not someone else.

—Rena Carman 

Senior communication studies major


Printed in the 10/26/16 issue. 

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