The Cougar Chronicle

Bringing cultural sensitivity to Halloween

Carved+pumpkins+for+the+Halloween+spirit.
Carved pumpkins for the Halloween spirit.

Carved pumpkins for the Halloween spirit.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Carved pumpkins for the Halloween spirit.

Kayla Bailey, Opinion Writer

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In the U.S., there is a constant battle between the freedom of expression and upholding sensitivity to cultures one is unfamiliar with.

 

Now that Halloween is around the corner, everyone should be more mindful about what they wear as a costume and if it could be considered as cultural appropriation. The term “cultural appropriation” means taking something from another culture that is not your own, especially if there is a lack of respect and/or knowledge about this culture.

 

Cultural appropriation especially applies to the power imbalance in society due to systemic oppression. In this case, it would be where certain elements of cultures are being taken from those who are oppressed without any respect or consideration.

 

When it comes to Halloween, many people may wear costumes that could be considered funny in the eyes of those who aren’t oppressed or of that specific culture, but it is the opposite of amusing to those who are.

 

For example, if you wear a kimono (a traditional Japanese garment) or a war bonnet (a Native American headdress) and you are not of Japanese or Native American descent, then you’re wearing a cultural appropriative costume. This would also be considered as an act of “wearing” a race/heritage mockingly and promote the stereotypes that come along with those costumes.

 

Even if one’s intent isn’t to disrespect, there are certain components of cultures that are considered sacred like the war bonnet and people from those cultures may view the act of wearing sacred items as a costume as degrading or demeaning.

 

This is where it may be confusing, as one does not generally know what would or wouldn’t be offensive.

 

Wearing a costume that’s offensive toward a culture would be like taking someone’s everyday clothes and making fun of it by wearing it for your own entertainment. One thing you should keep in mind when choosing your Halloween costume is, would this be something a friend, neighbor or stranger would wear as part of their own culture?

 

Halloween costumes that are fair game could be public figures, fantasy characters, your favorite superhero, etc. If your Halloween costume can be worn as part of someone else’s cultural practice, you should reconsider.

 

One may start to wonder why cultural appropriation is so important and why people may seem so sensitive if there is no mal-intent. However, some items that people wear have some kind of social or cultural importance associated with them and whether you meant any malice, it is still wrong to wear cultural appropriative costumes.

 

If you do not know if your costume is appropriate or not, simply do some investigating and educate yourself.

 

Again, many people don’t normally act with the intent to disrespect others, but this shows why it’s important that we bring awareness about cultural sensitivity and showing respect for different cultures.

 

The U.S. is a culturally diverse country and people must become culturally sensitive. We must be aware, especially during a time like Halloween, when cultural appropriation occurs and right what is wrong.

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