Beware and Be Aware: Don’t Culturally Appropriate this Halloween

Julianne Hough dresses up as Crazy Eyes from 'Orange is the New Black' as she attends the Casamigos Tequila halloween party in Hollywood
Famous actress, dancer and singer Julianne Hough dressed up as “Crazy Eyes” from the popular show Orange is the New Black, which is a prime example of what not to do this Halloween. Photo by: Huffington Post

Isabelle Kovacs, News Editor

There are many things about Halloween that I look forward to every year – haunted houses, scary movie marathons or endless amounts of chocolate, to name a few. Every year, however, and usually as Halloween approaches, I see, typically, too many instances of cultural appropriation, throughout social media.

Cultural appropriation is when a privileged demographic misuses aspects of a marginalized demographic’s culture. Cultural appropriation is a subtle misconduct that can be incited from dubious circumstances; it can in some cases be mistaken for “fun” or incited from misguided acts; it can be in costume – the Caucasian demographic in America sometime use blackface or traditional Native American headdresses as provisional costumes or fashion statements, which in turn upsets the disadvantaged black and Native American communities.

As Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro, a writer from Bustle, puts it, “Ask yourself these questions before dressing up: Is my costume representative of a community’s pain and suffering? Does my costume belong to a culture that is not part of my heritage? If the answer is yes to one or both those questions, ditch the costume.”

Don’t be that person who says, “It’s just a costume, I’m not offending anyone!” You can’t parade around using aspects of someone’s culture without understanding the history and struggles of said culture.

To me, it truly is not that difficult to wrap my head around one simple concept: a culture is not a costume.

USA Today also does an amazing job explaining the difference between cultural appropriation and ‘cultural appreciation’.

“Cultural appreciation [can be considered as] good borrowing, making a Moroccan soup for dinner and talking with your family about it. Cultural appropriation can be offensive, turning a hijab into a costume can mock the person who wears it every day as part of their religion.”

“Cultural appropriation can also be offensive when the person doing the borrowing is privileged, while the person who is being borrowed from is marginalized. For instance, a white person wearing dreadlocks on Halloween when a black man wearing dreadlocks on a regular Monday gets told ‘you can’t work here,’” USA Today also explains.

You might wear a sombrero around for one day out of the year and scream “build that wall” the next, but there are people who must struggle every day of their lives because of their race, religion or culture.

If you’re unsure if your costume is cultural appropriation, it probably is. Just ditch that costume and be a cat or something that won’t offend anybody.