How Halloween Is A Casual Gateway to Racism: A guide to Avoiding Cultural Appropriation
Disclaimer: Cultural Appropriation is a delicate subject. This article is an opinion piece; in no way, shape, or form am I trying to speak for a group of people.
Before diving into the issue of cultural appropriation, I will provide some definitions that are not my own. The Cambridge Dictionary describes cultural appropriation as using a culture different from your own without respecting it, understanding it, and omitting some elements. Cultural appropriation can take many forms, such as hair, terminology, clothing, etc. Cultural appropriation is often confused with cultural appreciation. Appreciating a culture is rooted in learning and the desire to broaden your horizons, whereas appropriating a culture on purpose or ignorance is self-interest, as explained by Greenhouse. When addressing cultural appropriation, it usually refers to material culture. Culture can be compared to a gigantic bag that holds inside values, traditions, passed on oral traditions, and material objects. So, as my sociology teacher Laura Shea said, material culture is “the tangible aspects of a culture”.
I Feel bewildered and conflicted when I come across white individuals and individuals who identify as white with Black braiding styles. I remember when in 2018, the internet called out Kim Kardashian for wearing Fulani braids. She only found excuses to defend herself without acknowledging the point of view of Black women. Isn’t it crazy how wearing Fulani braids was deemed fashionable by Kim Kardashian, yet Employers see black women wearing Fulani braids as “unprofessional” and “unkempt”?
Kim Kardashian is known for cultural appropriation. In 2019, she sought to release a new shapewear brand called Kimono Solutionwear. Many called her out for her actions since they disrespected the Japanese culture and the kimonos' cultural and symbolic representations. Kim Kardashian was mocking an element of Japanese material culture. I cannot speak in the stead of Japanese individuals, but I can certainly acknowledge the many comments and remarks by Japanese people speaking against Kim Kardashian’s behavior. Celebrities like her seem to have a pass to do whatever they want; they receive backlash but never actual sanctions. The internet did not cancel Kim Kardashian as is frequent nowadays for celebrities.
Another example is Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, who did Blackface in 2001 at a Halloween party to impersonate Aladdin. Guess what: it happened twice! The first time was in Cegep. What kind of message did these images send? Many found it outright racist, as do I. Justin Trudeau apologized for his actions during his campaign; still, his apology cannot erase the mark of his actions. Therefore, Halloween seems to amplify the presence of racism through the use of culturally appropriated “costumes”. These racist acts make minority groups and cultures other than the dominant culture (western culture) feel oppressed and discriminated against.
Whether you enjoy watching spooky movies or celebrating Halloween, the festivities call for a code attire: Costumes! The focus may be to have a cool costume or make a group costume with your friends but think carefully before choosing one. For Halloween 2022, it is crucial to understand the cultural backgrounds of costumes on the market.
Here is a guide on: How to avoid cultural appropriation:
Ask yourself a few questions:
Could this costume be offensive to anyone?
Why am I wearing this costume? Is it only for my benefit or is it to gain popularity?
Would I be reinforcing cultural stereotypes by wearing this costume?
Am I uplifting people of x culture by wearing this costume, or am I reducing their voices?
Is my costume a form of cultural appreciation? If yes, is wearing this costume the best way of going about it? If not, then am I appropriating a culture?
Ask others for their opinions on your costume.
Research your costume on the internet before purchasing it or making your own
Stay away from a costume that could represent another culture from your own
Disclaimer: It is essential to inform yourself about cultural appropriation because you might learn that you have engaged in it. Many things seen as “trendy” can often stem from cultural appropriation. Therefore, it is crucial to inform yourself and educate yourself if someone calls you out and, most importantly, give credit to the culture.
In a diverse and multicultural world, it is vital to understand the different cultures and to see them as equal and not inferior since it is the backbone of interactions between individuals; it sets the tone for respect and cultural exchanges.
This Halloween, instead of wearing a costume because it looks cool, maybe you should think of people on the receiving end.
Sources for the ones who want to inform themselves: