Culture-Based Halloween Costumes


By Paresha Khan, Staff Writer

Halloween has become a controversial holiday in which creativity can flow into a grey area of discrimination and offense. Halloween costumes should not be inspired from actual cultures.

Although it is understandable that people just want to have fun with their costumes, sometimes they fail to realize that they might unintentionally perpetuate offensive stereotypes of other cultures and religions. This reinforces harmful stigmas, making it more difficult for these cultures to avoid ridicule, to avoid racism, and to be accepted.

Cultural organizations on campus have shared their opinions about cultural appropriation during Halloween.

“I think dressing up as other cultures shouldn’t be done, just because you don’t know who you’re offending,” Pakistani Student Association member Aneela Choudhry said. “If you’re trying to represent other religions, I feel like you’re trying to be someone and act like them but that’s their actual daily life.”

Religion is something that people work hard to maintain every single day. When someone wears another person’s religious apparel just for laughs during Halloween, they’re actually belittling that spiritual sentiment.

Dressing up as a minority may not seem like a big deal, but in reality, those people are forced to deal with harsh comments on a daily basis.

“I just think it’s a sense of morality, like you have the right to do what you want to do but if you think that dressing up as other cultures is right, then you’re just disrespectful,” Black Student Alliance member Breyanna Woods said.

Black stereotypes are emphasized profusely during Halloween. Blackface, a form of theatrical makeup used by non-black performers to represent a black person, began in the 1820s and has been prominent in American theater for more than 100 years. According to a YouGov poll conducted in 2015, 52 percent of white people believe that blackface is acceptable during Halloween. So if all lives really matter, why is it okay for Black lives to be flaunted as costumes?

“You’ll be surprised how blackface is even common in today’s society. I think it’s absolutely offensive because it is the mockery of someone’s natural complexion,” President of African and African American Historical and Cultural Society Brianna Russell said. “White people have associated Africans and their descendants as being inferior and called them savages and unintelligent. The blackface performances represented the ‘inferior’ stereotype.”

Dressing up as a Native American has been a popular but offensive costume choice. Women have been dressing up as Native Americans because the outfits give off a sex appeal that adds to the broad and dangerous misrepresentations of Native Americans already prevalent in our society.

“It’s especially wrong to dress up as Native Americans because they don’t have many rights. So when you’re pretending to be them, you don’t understand how many struggles they go through on a daily basis,” Choudhry said.

According to the National Institute of Justice, more than four out of five American Indian and Alaska Native women have faced violence in their lifetime, with 56.1 percent having faced sexual violence.   

It is wrong to perpetuate a sexy Native American stereotype when so many Native women disproportionately face violence.

However, some may think it’s okay to dress up as Pocahontas because she is a character.

“A lot of little girls look up to [Pocahontas] whether or not they’re Native American or if their culture aligns with her,” Filipino Association member Natalie Ledesma said. “If I’m going to talk about Mulan, who’s Chinese, a lot of little girls want to dress up as her because she’s a warrior and she’s a princess so they look up to her and are inspired.”

However, Choudhry believes that dressing up as an ethnic person is disrespectful no matter the reason.

“When people try to dress up like Frida Kahlo with the unibrows and everything, you know they’d make fun of someone if they did it in real life. I think if people really want to dress up as people of color, then they need to be ready to take the struggles and the racist comments that they experience everyday,” Choudhry said.

So, before immediately choosing a costume that seems cute or in style, it is very important to be considerate, especially when coming across an outfit that represents another culture.

“People should choose carefully what they want to be and if they want to be something controversial, then they should consider their actions when they play the part during Halloween,” Ledesma said.