by Claire Brennan
You can be whomever you want to be on Halloween. You can emulate the beauty and glamour of Marilyn Monroe with just a white dress, blonde wig and red lipstick. You can mimic the swagger of your favorite superhero or spoof the presidential candidates. But just like many things in this world, Halloween is all fun and games until somebody ruins it.
The prospect of dressing up and calling someone else’s culture your “costume” is not new. You can still find Native American costumes, traditional thobes and Day of the Dead-themed outfits at Party City. These costumes are still on shelves because of the disconnect between the people who buy them and the people whose culture is being used senselessly.
I don’t want to demonize people who may not understand how these costumes are insensitive; it's a matter of perspective.
To me, “It’s a joke” is precisely the problem. Taking a part of someone’s life that is intrinsic to their personality and their community, spending 78 cents to make it into a nylon slip and selling it for $35 is ridiculous. The fact that those groups whose culture is being stolen for profit are upset is enough of a reason for me to question the morals behind wearing these costumes. A headdress in Native American culture is the highest honor, a mark of courage and strength. Seeing people dress up wearing a phony symbol of prestige must feel like they're making a mockery of your culture.
Cultural appropriation should be questioned the same way we might question the ethics behind people dressing up as an Ebola patient, the dentist who killed Cecil the lion or hostage Kim Kardashian. It’s just not tasteful. It’s intuitive for most people to see why taking something tragic or offensive for a costume is wrong. In the same way, the culture, race and religion of others deserve the same level of respect.
Why take something with a history so sacred to a group only to mock it, intentionally or not? Treat Halloween as a time to celebrate a holiday with good intentions ― a night to eat candy and indulge in all things spooky.