Culture, Not A Costume


Photo Credit: Collage made by me, Katy Perry Photo by, Gigi Hadid photo by, Kim Kardashian photo by, Heidi Klum photo by, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen photo by, all other photos by me.

Collage of celebrities and halloween costumes that are practicing cultural appropriation.

Ayla DeBord, Reporter

Halloween is arguably one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. You get to dress up as a monster, mythical creature, your favorite TV show character; anything you want. But there are costumes that are unacceptable to wear. 

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of components or elements of a culture or identity by people who do not belong to said culture or identity. Cultural appropriation is a huge problem in the United States, especially on Halloween. 

There are an abundance of examples including Katy Perry’s Dark Horse music video where she appropriated the Egyptian culture, Kim Kardashian wearing black hairstyles like cornrows, Pharell Williams wearing a Native American headdress in a social media post, and Heidi Klum dressed up as the Hindu Goddess, Kali. Although not all of these examples were because of Halloween, it just goes to show that this kind of subtle racism is alive and well throughout the year. 

It’s not just celebrities and adults who are at fault for appropriating another culture. Young people today are very ignorant about this issue and some feel as though it doesn’t matter. This apathy is a big issue because that kind of mentality paves the way for subtle racism being acceptable in society.

 I’ve seen many young people indulge in wearing another culture or identity as a costume and it goes to show how uneducated the vast majority of people are when it comes to cultural appropriation. Not long ago, people on the internet were appropriating Mexican culture, which is one of the more common ‘costumes’ that go overlooked by the public. What was reassuring to me was that people held them accountable. Accountability is key to learning and understanding our action’s impacts. This is a lesson many of us have to learn and it sticks with us because we open ourselves up to understand and acknowledge the hurt we cause others.

It goes further than ‘just a costume’ and that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. The tropes and stereotypes displayed by cultural costumes have a plethora of historical roots. When you think about the Native American ‘costume’, so many of the stereotypes are embedded in a very violent past that their ancestors had to endure at the hands of colonizers. It is a way of life, a culture, and identity, and using that as a ‘costume’ is so incredibly disrespectful. Using what people go through as a culture and community to our advantage and our entertainment is demeaning the experiences of those people. 

There is always room for growth and improvement and it takes dedication to unlearn the internalized racism that we all have within us. By holding ourselves and our peers accountable we create an environment that normalizes not only changing your opinion after being given new information, but also admitting the harm we have caused to others.

 No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Learning from those mistakes is the only way we can move forward in society and be respectful and mindful about other people’s cultures and customs.