My second favorite holiday that I don’t celebrate is Halloween. I love how people get into costume and character. Plus, the candy is sweeter right around that time. It is also that time of year when I have to school you on what lines you have to be careful not to cross. This year, you will probably see people Trick-or-Treating as Harley Quinn, a Snapchat filter, Harambe, Donald Trump, or something really racist.
Halloween is the one holiday of the year where cultural appropriation goes unchecked. Cultural appropriation is what I like to call, again, “plagiarism with style” as I mentioned in my article calling out Marc Jacobs. This is not a cultural exchange. This is not paying homage to being 1/16th whatever. This is justifying your ignorance with offensive stereotypes and sweeping a culture’s value and experience with oppression under the rug.
Before you spend your money on an offensive costume and cry “I don’t see race,” ask yourself this:
- What is the reason behind your costume and what do you hope to gain from it?
- What is sexy or funny about dressing up as a culture?
- How are you showing your love for the culture? Do you have any knowledge of what they have to go through? Or are you doing this because you have something against this group of people?
- What do you know about the double standard of cultural appropriation? If someone of that ethnic background wore your costume, would he/she get compliments on it? Probably not…
- Do you belong to that to ethnic group?
- Would you wear that costume around that group of people? How do you think they will feel?
Now to that last question in the case of American Muslims, if you dress up as an Arab terrorist because that’s how you see Arabs and Muslims, then guess who’s the bad guy? Now what about “Blackface?” As an African-American myself, if I saw someone donning Blackface, I would slap that person until they become Black (but be lucky I’m a nice person and don’t condone violence).
Would your Black friends be okay with you with Blackface? You know, it’s possible to dress up as a character of another race without being offensive.
Now if you see someone dressing up as something offensive, tell them immediately! Halloween should not be an exception to use your privilege and culturally insensitive for one day of the year. It’s bad enough that the culture you are portraying faces hate and ignorance 365 days a year.