Don’t make a culture your Halloween costume

By The Beacon | October 31, 2013 2:19am

By Sam Lee, Michelle Wilcox, Yuri Hernandez |

This Halloween, before you’re headed off to numerous costume parties over the span of a weekend-long celebration, you’ll no doubt find yourself scrambling for a last-minute, thrown-together outfit.  Before you reach for that feather headband or that tribal print top, bear in mind that a culture is not a costume.  Year after year people either knowingly or unknowingly dress themselves up in costumes that perpetuate negative cultural appropriation.

Though you may think your costume is all in good fun, you never know who your costume could be offending and the stereotypes you could be reinforcing. For example, many people choose to construct their costumes based around sexualizing Native Americans. Besides this costume being overtly racist, it is also insensitive to the staggering rates of sexual abuse against Native American women. This message also rings true for men, who may find it funny and convenient to throw on a sombrero and a poncho without fully understanding the ramifications of offending someone’s cultural identity. The University of Portland strives to create a safe and inclusive atmosphere for students, making the appearance of culturally appropriative costumes counterproductive to the university’s mission.

In short, donning a costume that mocks any minority — intentionally or unintentionally — is never OK. Just because Cady Heron from Mean Girls said that “Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it,” does not mean that it’s ok to dress culturally insensitively and expect not to offend anyone. Just remember that while you wear the costume for one night, others have to face stigmas everyday.