Costume Culture Needs Alternatives


Amanda Young, Editor-in-Chief

It’s Halloween Night and a little white girl dons her brand new Native American princess dress with feathers and beads, locking hands with her friend who decided to trick-or-treat as a Geisha, white makeup and all. Some parents think they look adorable and find themselves jealous that they had not picked out similar costumes for their own children.

But, there is something wrong with this picture.

Certain care is now expected when choosing a costume, and those that represent specific cultures or religions can be problematic.

This year, the administration announced that students dressing up for Halloween on campus should not wear costumes associated with a particular culture. I stand with them on their decision.

Cultural appropriation has become a buzz phrase in our society, and rightly so.

While I may invite the ridicule of some of my peers by saying this, Halloween costumes should never imitate someone else’s culture.

When you wear fringe and a headdress with features, don a sombrero and maracas, sport a hijab, put on blackface, or tape your eyes back and throw on a kimono, you effectively degrade those respective minority groups and the experiences of the individuals within them.

I expect better of today’s supposedly more culturally-sensitive society.

An individual can not step out of his or her culture like removing a costume. Dressing up like a Hula girl or Native American chief is an unfortunate expression of white privilege and demonstrates ignorance.

Native Americans have been marginalized since Europe’s colonization of the Americas in the 15th century. African American people have been enslaved, exploited, and dehumanized.

Muslims have been persecuted and stereotyped as terrorists. Asians are repeatedly degraded and fetishized; some have suffered from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the Japanese internment camps during World War II.

Mexicans continue to be a favorite target of President Trump’s war on immigrants.

All this is to say that no cultural group should suffer the insult of being turned into a trivial costume.

Prominent politicians, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, have been criticized for their use of blackface. While there are some who defended them, saying that they were young, innocent, “having a good time,” the truth is that only the insensitive, ignorant, or truly evil, would find this behavior acceptable.

There is no shortage of more socially responsible costume alternatives.

Someone’s culture, race, or religion should never be a wardrobe option for dress-up, and the failure to understand why is the most offensive display of all.