Halloween and Cultural Appropriation - The Echo news
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Candy, costumes and culture

When Halloween fun goes too far

By Hannah Schaefer | Contributor


In the excitement of costumes, it’s easy to offend unintentionally.

You know it’s Halloween weekend when you walk outside and see a parade of princesses, ninjas, Waldos and Rosie the Riveters walk by.

This is the best part of Halloween—the fun of dressing up and goofing around, not to mention the candy. But as you eat your Snickers and party hard at the Halloween Dance, it’s important to keep something in mind.

Other people’s cultures are not a costume.

When an American wears a Japanese kimono, or an American-Indian dress, or a Mexican poncho in a way that operates on a cultural stereotype, someone’s real culture is being turned into a punchline. This is called cultural appropriation, and it can be incredibly hurtful.

According to about.com, cultural appropriation “typically involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups—often with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience and traditions.” Exploiting in this scenario is using another person’s culture in a way that makes yourself look good without giving credit where credit is due.

This is different from dressing up as a basic white girl. Those stereotypes, while mildly annoying for some, do not have long-term, detrimental messages in the same way that over sexualizing or making a joke of someone else’s culture does. As a white girl, I know that people joke about pumpkin spice lattes and Uggs in the context of a public that recognizes not all white women love those things. While that may annoy me, those stereotypes are not nearly as powerful or as dangerous as applying stereotypes to a minority as a way to have fun.

It’s less about being politically correct, and more about being respectful of people who don’t get a say in how they’re perceived in our society.

So, dear reader, I hope you forgo the headdresses, cornrows and sombreros this year and instead opt for Disney and “The Office” and the Peanuts Gang. By doing so, you help make Halloween a fun and respectful day for everyone.

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