CULTURE COSTUMES – HARMLESS FUN OR CULTURAL APPROPRIATION?

HARMLESS FUN:

Halloween season is upon us, and many parents of young children are experiencing conflicting emotions. 

On one hand, there’s the excitement associated with the holiday. Their children will soon be dressing up, trick-or-treating and filling their baskets and bellies with candy that will keep them up for three days straight. 

On the other hand, however, parents are faced with guilt. For some reason, people have taken an innocent day of dressing up and turned it into a race debate. 

Halloween allows children to become someone else for a night, which comes with many benefits. It lets kids use their imagination to explore alternative identities, something that does not happen enough today. It’s a day to be free of judgments and to pretend to be your inner self. Why are we turning this into a race discussion? 

So what if my Caucasian daughter wants to be Moana, a darker-skinned young lady? It is not an insult; it’s showing how much this character has touched a young child’s life and how much they look up to the character. They should be honored, not insulted. 

If someone is truly insulted, they are just looking for ways to start a fight. There are good people out there, not everyone is trying to make fun of each other. Dressing up as someone else is a sign of respect. 

So, for all the kids and adults that want to dress up as someone else, but are scared of what someone might think, just do it. Obviously, the people taking issue with it just need to stay indoors on Halloween. 

 

CARELESS APPROPRIATION:

American society is constantly undergoing social changes, and today is no exception. People are protesting against police violence, people are having rallies for women’s rights and the country in general is in the midst of a social upheaval. It’s unsurprising that this social revolution is bleeding into one of America’s favorite holidays: Halloween. It’s a time filled with spooks, candy, pumpkins, costumes and all-around fun. However, in recent years, many people have spoken out against certain Halloween costumes that endorse cultural stereotypes. 

Now, please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying as, “people who dress up in Native American costumes are actively disrespecting a culture and are inherently racist,” or, “kids shouldn’t be allowed to dress up as characters of different races.” 

I don’t believe anyone is intentionally trying to harm or disrespect people by wearing these costumes. If your child wants to dress up as Moana or Mulan, they should, by all means, do so. However, dressing a child up as a “native princess” or a geisha is not okay. The clothing that your children use to dress up “for fun” is actually very sacred and ceremonial in other cultures. In these cases, people look at a costume, think it’s cute or cool, and wear it, never knowing the cultural significance of it. 

I recently went to a Halloween store and found several Native American costumes with very offensive names. The first costume I found was “Pocahottie,” which I had heard of, but never thought I’d actually come across. As opposed to her portrayal in the Disney film, Pocahontas was actually a little girl who was captured by the English and converted to Christianity. She was married to an Englishman named John Rolfe and taken to England, presented as the “civilized savage.” 

Pocahontas wasn’t a beautiful woman who saved John Smith. She was a young girl, taken from her home, and stripped of her heritage. Finding a costume that soiled her name and depicted her as a scandalous princess was beyond offensive. 

I found several other offensive costumes, not making allusions to historical figures, but still making harmful allusions to Native American culture. Two of these costumes that especially stood out were called, “Reservation Princess” and “Makin’ Reservations.” I honestly didn’t know which of these was more tasteless. We forced Native Americans off of their land and into reservations, and now we’re wearing costumes that ridicule this act. This is not okay. 

One of the most offensive costumes I’ve discovered was an “Anne Frank” costume, which was almost immediately removed from most online retailer websites. The costume was described as, “the role of a World War II hero.” While I love Anne Frank and find her story very empowering, she is not a WWII hero. She was a little girl whose life was destroyed by Nazis. Her story is meant to symbolize the young children who died at the hands of Nazis, and serves as a reminder of one of the darkest moments in world history. Anne Frank is a symbol of hope, optimism and bravery. She is not a Halloween costume. 

Many people have spoken out against the Anne Frank costume, saying it “trivializes her memory.” While this costume was taken down from most websites, some retailers simply renamed it, “WWII evacuee girl.” 

It’s not my goal to suck the fun out of Halloween. In fact, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. However, there are serious problems with “culture” Halloween costumes, for both adults and kids. Dressing up in any culture’s sacred clothing is offensive and tasteless. A historical figure’s memory shouldn’t be trivialized and made into a cutesy children’s costume. There are so many options when it comes to dressing up for Halloween. When you’re choosing a costume, think about what it represents. With a few minutes of thought and research, you can easily avoid insulting an entire culture or mocking a dark time in history.