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The Problem with Halloween

By Mason Santos

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are falling, Halloween is tomorrow, and for some of us (myself included) this means a quick stop to the store to create a last-minute costume for the holiday. However, as you get your costume together, keep in mind that there is a line between okay and downright offensive. Yep, I’m talking about cultural appropriation, stereotypes, and racism.

Cultural appropriation is the act of taking a culture (that isn’t your own) and fixing it/changing it so it fits your life. Everyday Feminism has a fantastic article discussing it, as well as introducing the problems it creates. To summarize the problems surrounding it, cultural appropriation creates a harmful community because it turns culture into costume.

Though I love Halloween, I have recently become extremely frustrated with some of society’s “traditions” surrounding it. The more I watch costume commercials, the more negative stereotypes I see being played over and over again. A lot of people think the holiday is a sort of get-out-of-jail free card, where they can dress as they so choose.  What really is happening is that racial problems in our society are being highlighted. Many of us know that blackface is not okay and extremely racist, but unfortunately we see others ignore this and continue to do it. We allow offensive costumes to be presented to the public because we’ve normalized it. We’ve made it okay, and so when a select group point out the racism behind these costumes, we get comments such as, “you’re overreacting.”

When it comes to rights, I think many people get lost in the idea of physical and legal rights. We get caught up in our own freedom, which unfortunately creates the belief that we are entitled to do what we want. We often forget emotional and mental rights, affecting the people around us because we have an individual-centered mentality. This is where the racism and cultural appropriation come into play. “I can wear what I want,” and, “I can choose to represent another culture the way I want”  are often phrases that come up when a person is trying to defend their choice of wearing an offensive costume. Rather than thinking about another person’s right to feeling comfortable in their community, we think about our own right to do what we desire. As community members we shouldn’t be doing that; we should be discussing what boundaries there are when it comes to other people’s cultures and tradition. When we have conversations about this, not only will we create more accepting environments, but we will also educate ourselves on different perspectives of the world that we may not necessarily know.

The talk about cultural appropriation is no where near over. This article is only a sample of what should be shared, and once we start to talk to each other and discuss important issues such as these, we can create a community where everyone feels respected and safe.

For more information on this topic, feel free to check out the following links.

“Is Your Halloween Costume Racist?” on Everyday Feminism

Fuck No Racist Halloween Costumes, a blog dedicated to pointing out the obvious



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