This recent Halloween was particularly spooky to me due to the upcoming American election, casual racism and a shocking sea of apathy and ignorance towards cultural appropriation. I thought this year would somehow be better than last, but no there is some serious resistance towards privileged people not having the privilege to dress however they like. As the haunted day was looming I participated in discussions and debates towards the subject, it was made clear to me that objectifying marginalized cultures is alive and well.
Cultural appropriation by definition means: “The adoption of one culture by members of another culture”. This phenomena sounds relatively innocuous, however it requires a deeper understanding which is where many get lost. Cultural appropriation often involves stealing mere aesthetic aspects from another culture for something as temporary as a costume with little to no understanding towards what it represents. It also involves a power dynamic between a dominant culture and a systematically oppressed culture. This is exactly why cultural appropriation is not the same as a cultural exchange or assimilation. For those that argue that non-western people do the same in dying their hair blond or wearing brand names etc…The difference here is that marginalized people are often not given the option to decide between representing their culture daily or wearing costumes that represent other cultures just for one night.
Halloween in North America is essentially the epitome of gluttony and hedonism. It involves an array of costume options, candy, alcohol, fireworks, parades and endless parties. In addition there is a virtually infinite amount of costume options to choose from, many creative and wonderful ones at that. The idea of not having a couple options on this insatiable holiday is incomprehensible to some. Here are some examples of Halloween costumes for sale this year.
Just like other elements of racism, people simply never thought about the offensive nature of these costumes. Racism often stems from ignorance and this is often the case with the lack of understanding towards cultural appropriation. If you have dressed up as such in the past and now understand that’s offensive, then that’s great as we are learning and progressing as a culture. For those who argue that the debate over cultural appropriation is a fad and people get too easily offended these days then you’re simply proving we still need to discuss this. The people that argue this side are often white and unaware of affects of cultural genocide. To those that say people get “but hurt” (a term that showcases intelligence levels quite accurately) over archaic racism and systematic prejudice just know you are a large part of the problem and we won’t until you do. There is an astonishing amount of options we have in North America, we can give up just couple to help protect other cultures, can’t we? It is probably the absolute least we can do, so please just stop wearing racist costumes.