Halloween is right around the corner, and you can already feel campus abuzz with activity and excitement. Though some might argue that the holiday is childish, many people feel as though it invigorates them in some way. It makes October exciting and worthwhile, and the milestone makes it that much easier to get through the month.
Personally, Halloween is and always will be my favorite holiday. That being said, as I’ve grown up, I feel myself being able to take a step back and look at it with a hint of skepticism.
As a child, I’d never noticed all the things wrong with Halloween — or, more specifically, the costumes. I never saw dressing in a kimono for the night, or painting on a different skin color, as problematic. That was, until I saw concerns being raised over social media.
Being who I am — hard-headed and always fighting to voice my opinion on any subject — it was hard for me to come to terms with the racism and other basic discrimination that comes with the Halloween costumes that are produced in bulk.
As a white female, it didn’t have any effect on me. Of course, if it had no effect on me, and I wondered how could it have an effect on anyone else? It was just a costume for Pete’s sake, how dangerous could it be?
Well the short answer, I’ve come to find out, is very.
Black face, brown face, and yellow face have been issues during Halloween probably for as long as the commercialized part of the holiday has been around. The thing is, it’s 2015– not 1964.
Nowadays, it’s a lot less obvious as we see kids play pretend as Cowboys & Indians all the time and kimono knock offs are being sold in Forever21 to pass as a fashion trend. We’re becoming accustomed to seeing these things everywhere and the shock factor has worn off and worn down until there’s basically nothing left.
These are now everyday occurrences and most people have no idea the effect it’s having on the specific culture it comes from. Some people aren’t bothered by it, but others are. You making light of a culture for personal gain, even if it’s personal gain as simple as being a “joke” for a singular night, is cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation is dangerous in several different ways. Not only does it erase and invalidate a culture, but it erases and invalidates the everyday experiences that people of certain races undergo because of skin color or origin.
While you can shed your costume at the end of the day, people of color or different cultures are stuck with all of the racist comments at the end of the day.
Before you buy a costume this year, take a look around, check out the internet. Make sure that your costume is something you enjoy that everyone else can enjoy too.
A culture is not a costume.