Opinion

Be wary of racially insensitive costumes

While most Halloween costumes are creative and appropriate, students need to be wary of cultural appropriation.

Image By: Thomas Yonash

The madness that is “Halloweekend” in Madison has passed. State Street is alive again post-Freakfest, and college students are waking up with buzzed and foggy memories of what happened last night. Madison is famous for its ghoulish party scene every Halloween, with people from around the Midwest making the pilgrimage to experience the weekend. 

As many of us know, no Halloween party is complete without a great costume. While many go for the tried-and-true sexy black cat, sailor or police officer, some choose to be more creative with costume ideas. But creative can very easily turn into offensive. 

Cultural appropriation is a serious issue year-round, but it is highlighted especially during Halloween season. The line between being imaginative and offensive can become blurred—a costume is something that is fictional and not to be taken seriously, right? However, this special leeway does not greenlight costumes that enforce negative stereotypes or foster an environment of hate towards any group. While it may be a cute couples costume to go as Pocahontas and John Smith, it is actually belittling Native American culture. 

These costumes are often not accurate representations of a culture, but rather sweeping generalizations that have been spread through media. Continuing with the example of Pocahontas and Native American culture, Pocahontas is not an accurate portrayal of women across tribes. While many of us today consider Pocahontas to be an iconic Native American woman, her image and story have been crafted for mainstream consumption by making her life into that of a princess, instead of telling the true trials and tribulations she lived through. 

This same cultural appropriation in costuming is seen in more modern pop culture examples. African-American culture is deeply entwined within the greater American culture. However, that does not make it okay for people who are not African-American to dress like those who are. Blackface, stereotyped ghetto outfits and more proliferate racist attitudes towards the African-American community. Not all African-Americans are rappers or thugs; just look at our current president. 

While the Halloweekend madness has died down, the holiday is not yet over. When thinking about what you’re going to do or be for the final hours of Halloween, keep in mind that someone’s culture is not a costume. Generalizations found in such costumes are offensive and degrading to a culture, often proliferating negative stereotypes that are simply untrue and racist. This is an ideal to follow not only as the holiday festivities move forward, but throughout our daily lives.

Samantha is a sophomore majoring in journalism and communication arts. Please send all comments to  opinion @dailycardinal.com.

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