Beware What You wear!

halloween-costumesDuring this time of the year, we are all thinking about what we should dress up as for Halloween. But imagine your culture being worn for fun during Halloween, mocking your values and beliefs. Many forget that cultural appropriation is applicable to Halloween. Costumes that mock people’s culture for holiday fun is a concern of many people.

Where do we draw the line between fun or scary costumes and offensive, insensitive costumes? The main concern of cultural appropriation costumes is that by wearing a costume depicting a culture that is not your own, you could be offending others. This is the time of year that you dress outside what is normal for you.  But wearing someone’s culture as a “costume” is extremely offensive and could be considered mockery. It promotes racism, sexism, homophobia and other types of systematic oppression.

It is also true that kids’ costumes can easily be cultural appropriation so parents and schools should be aware of what their child is wearing to school or around the neighborhood.  A long time humanities teacher at Oceana, Sara Delman, says, “I have to choose a costume for my kid and actually think of one that isn’t offensive.”  

I went to one place where the source of the problem is: the stores that sell these costumes, and interviewed a worker, who had insight on these costumes. Lena is a newly hired worker at Party City, a store that sells anything party related, including costumes. In Party City, they sell costumes like “Native American princess”, which is extremely offensive to Native Americans and their culture.  I asked Lena how she feels about this and she says, “I think it’s wrong because in many ways it’s mocking people’s culture and it’s not even accurate.”  Most of these costumes, that are based on a culture, are not even culturally accurate.  When I asked her would costumes be acceptable if they were culturally accurate, she answered, “Even if it was culturally accurate, it’s still offensive to sell someone’s culture in a store like Party City.  It’s degrading and disrespectful to a person’s culture that they grew up to love.”

Although Lena isn’t close to her culture, she still recognizes that selling someone’s culture in a store like Party City is just wrong. She mentions that many of her coworkers don’t find it wrong, saying that it’s “just a costume.”

However, we cannot all agree that these are just costumes because they go much deeper than that.  When your culture is sold in a store like Party City, just to be worn for fun, wearing this is not only offensive, it promotes the idea that playful mockery and racism is okay. It promotes all injustices: racism, sexism, homophobia, religious dominance, and the list goes on. So this Halloween: Beware what you wear.

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