My culture is not your costume

Culture appropriation during Halloween

Cultural appropriation, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, “is the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not one someone identifies as, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” Cultural appropriation, unfortunately, is present in everyday life.Even more unfortunately, the Halloween season is especially filled with cultural appropriation, as many people incorporate aspects of different cultures into their costumes, sparking a lot of recent controversy. 

To fully understand what cultural appropriation in Halloween costume looks like, there are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind when choosing a costume. First, any costume that reflects someone’s personal identity or culture. For example, in recent years Amazon had a costume of what was labeled as a “Mexican Man” on their website. After this sparked controversy, the costume was removed and similar ones were required to change their names and descriptions. 

Degrading someone’s culture and identity to a costume strips away the importance that it holds to someone who identifies as this culture and lives with it every single day of their life. Not to mention, most of these costumes continuously perpetuate racist stereotypes of the culture. With the “Mexican Man” costume, the use of a sombrero, a mustache and a traditional Mexican poncho directly assume that this is what a typical Mexican man looks like which is not the case. This qualifies for all cultures that are degraded to a costume, including but not limited to Native Americans, African Americans, or Asians. Whether it’s intentional or not, it’s important to be mindful and most importantly educated on what or rather who you are dressed up as and make sure it is not offensive. This may be your costume for one day of the year, but it is somebody else’s identity for a lifetime. 

Aside from educating yourself on what cultural appropriation is, you can also find ways to distinguish cultural appropriation from cultural appreciation. Cultural appreciation means to have true intentions when immersing yourself or educating yourself about another’s culture. It means being welcoming and understanding. The main difference between these two terms and distinguishing them is acknowledging what the intentions are between those who do this. Everyone has different opinions on what is and isn’t cultural appropriation but at the end of the day if you need to ask yourself “Is this cultural appropriation?” or “Will this offend somebody?”, then maybe that costume needs a second thought.