Halloween is appreciated by many countries worldwide, as it allows individuals to become someone else entirely for a night. However, this opportunity to dress up is often mistaken as an opportunity to adopt the culture of others without truly considering how offensive it can be towards people of that culture.
The most common examples of these culturally offensive costumes include dressing as Native Americans, sugar skulls from Dia de los Muertos, using blackface and many others. Using culture as a costume degrades all meaning behind that culture and also trivialize the experiences of its people.
“From personal experience, seeing a non-Mexican or Chicano person wearing a sugar skull costume belittles the amazing and culture-filled celebration that is Day of the Dead. By wearing the costume, the beautiful holiday is reduced to a fun thing to wear for Halloween, when it means so much more to many people with Mexican heritage,” junior Cecilia Lunaparra said.
By not knowing the true meaning behind these traditions, those who wear cultures as costumes are unknowingly feeding our ignorance towards other cultures. In order to truly appreciate every culture and its traditions, people cannot continue to use it as a costume.
Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of the loss of loved ones. Dressing as a sugar skull represents a departed soul and their rebirth, a beautiful idea of loved ones in the afterlife. By wearing sugar skulls as costumes, especially without knowing their meaning, people grossly disrespect the tradition. They fail to realize that they are making a mockery of people grieving and celebrating the lives of their loved ones.
Another example of cultural appropriation present in Halloween costumes is blackface. The idea of blackface goes back to slavery, when Americans would use it in comedic plays and musicals, rooted in the painful past of African Americans. This practice continued to spread stereotypes about African American culture and their experiences during slavery. Using blackface in a Halloween costume not only brings up that struggle, but continues to spread stereotypes surrounding it.
One of the most common forms of cultural appropriation is in dressing as a Native American. Yes, this includes dressing as Pocahontas. This costume is very offensive to indigenous people because it makes fun of not just their culture, but their struggle throughout history to maintain their heritage. Similar to dressing in a sugar skull costume, dressing as a Native American belittles the culture and traditions behind it, as those who wear it often do not understand their meanings.
“Dressing up as what one perceives as a Native person belittles their struggles in everyday society, especially considering the current administration’s attempt to silence their vote and continue to place institutions which keep many indigenous communities in poverty. When deciding to wear a headdress and other supposed symbols generalizing indigenous people, their culture is trivialized into a caricature, and the United States’ horrid history of deliberately murdering those wearing headdresses is erased,” Lunaparra said.
Americans are continuing the disrespect we have shown towards other cultures by wearing them as costumes. We continue to spread stereotypes by selecting the most attractive aspects of different cultures and portraying them without truly acknowledging all meaning behind it.
Halloween is a chance to become someone else. But this does not mean that one can adopt another person’s culture and overlook the emotional connection and meaning behind it. Culture should never be a costume. Respect other cultures. Don’t disregard them.