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How to be culturally appropriate on Halloween

Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro

Managing Editor

Image via Pexels/Sami Abdullah

Halloween is a time of fun, a time of tricks and treats, a time to dress up and scare your friends and family. It’s exciting for children and adults alike. The onset of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Land Back movement, and even the recent awareness of Indigenous residential schools, has made it obvious that minority populations are making themselves known. These populations have voiced numerous times their concerns on cultural appropriation, which occurs when a majority population adopts one or more elements of a minority culture, resulting in exploitative, disrespectful stereotypes. Often, cultural appropriation is seen in ways that we do not even consider. An example of this would be a non-African, or at the very least someone with no African heritage, wearing dreadlocks in their hair.

Planning the perfect costume can be both exciting and stressful. Trying to coordinate costumes with friends and family can also prove to be stressful. These days, it is especially stressful due to the social norms of political correctness, or, in this case, trying to find the perfect costume that does not offend anyone.

There are many costumes that can be considered offensive: a “sexy” nurse or nun, an Indigenous person, a Romani person, a Mexican person, and, it goes without saying, the use of blackface or brownface. It is okay to dress as a specific person or character, such as a Disney princess, or political and religious figures or entertainers, it’s important to use discretion and tact when choosing a costume.

This Halloween season, when choosing costumes, ask yourself a few questions: Does this costume portray a culture other than my own? Does this costume portray someone, or a whole culture, in a negative light? If I saw someone else wearing this, would it make me mad? Is this costume an appropriate costume that portrays a character, a political or religious figure, or a celebrity in a positive light? If the answer to any of these questions is a “maybe” or a “no,” you may want to find another costume.

It is hard to find a “one-size-fits-all” costume, the “perfect” anything that won’t offend someone. There is always the chance that even the most conservative costume will offend someone, but at the end of your selection, you will be able to rest easily knowing you made an informed choice.


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