Cultural Appropriation: A Halloween Epidemic

The Spookiest Part of the Season

Isa Karathanos, Editorial Editor

It’s that time of year again–the air is crisp with the scents of pumpkin spice lattes, pecan pie, and cultural appropriation. You’d think that by now, society would understand the issue with dressing up as a race for Halloween, but just the other day, I overheard a white male teenager lament that he didn’t have a costume, to which his white male friend supplied, “Just wrap a towel around your head and go as a terrorist.”

Solin Douglas-Hill
Isa Karathanos

So this is my Halloween resolution–if anybody comes knocking at my door dressed as a “Native American” or “Asian Person,” they will walk away with exactly two carrot sticks. 

Aside from being completely unoriginal (I mean, come on, Brad, is “Mexican” really the best idea you could come up with?), racist Halloween costumes are offensive and harmful to the people they misrepresent. On October 29, 2019, NPR covered the annual issue of offensive Native American costumes, explaining that these costumes are made to resemble Native Americans in a time when they faced extreme violence. It goes deeper than what you’re dressed like,” said Henu Josephine Tarrant, a New York-based artist and performer of the Ho-Chunk, Hopi and Rappahannock tribes. “When you really look at it and you really study these tropes and stereotypes and what they mean and how they affect us as Native people, you know they’re all rooted in a historically violent past.These insensitive and most likely inaccurate costumes poke fun at the past struggles of oppressed groups, while doing nothing to address any of the problems faced by the real people they dress up as. 

So what can we do to put a stop to this October ignorance? Besides denying children candy and eating it for yourself, there are steps that we can take in various situations to make sure that Halloween is fun for everyone. For example, the aforementioned NPR article describes the tactics of a teacher who has witnessed too many offensive costumes in the past; she now sends letters to parents before Halloween, asking them to think about their children’s costume choices, and reconsider anything that would make someone else uncomfortable. In addition, the Chicago Tribune in October of this year gives advice about how to approach the subject with a friend who doesn’t understand why their costume is offensive. “Tell friends if you think their costumes aren’t funny and are going to hurt people. If they disagree, remind them that it’s impossible for them to personally understand why someone would be hurt by the costume,” the article recommends; if we all step up and have honest conversations with one another, it is possible to address the ugliness before any harm is done. 

Honestly, with so many options out there, I can’t imagine why someone would want to dress up as a race for Halloween. It’s insulting, not only to minorities, but to the creative sensibilities of anyone with an ounce of imagination. Okay, I get it, some people simply cannot come up with their own ideas, so I’ll help you out–if you find yourself slipping into your old racist ways this October 31st, just be a dragon. Or a peacock. Or a lamp. Anything but a Mexican! Or, I swear on everything spooky, I will eat this entire bag of kit-kats by myself.