OPINION: Halloween isn’t an opportunity to be racist

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As the Halloween season approaches, everyone starts dressing up more, sometimes in inappropriate ways. As fun as this time of year may be, it’s easy to wear something that can be offensive to others without realizing it. Cultural appropriation can be a simple mistake, but the consequences can be significant.

Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, in blackface at an event in 2001. (TIME Magazine)

What is cultural appropriation?

Cultural appropriation is adopting the aspects of a certain culture that isn’t your own. Most often, it occurs by members of a more dominant culture (i.e. Caucasians), and affects a minority that has a history of being oppressed by that same dominant culture.

Examples of costumes that would be considered cultural appropriation can include, but are certainly not limited to, Indigenous costumes, “Mexican” costumes, blackface or brownface, or wearing cultural items such as a kimono, hijab or sari.

Though you may think that your intent was harmless, or maybe you’re helping to share these cultures with others, you must consider how people from those cultures would feel. Many of them have experienced oppression and violence, just because of who they are, for centuries. Some of the items you may be wearing are even parts of their culture that they are discriminated for to this day.

For example, you may think your dreadlock wig looks super cool with your Jamaican costume, but some people who have that hair are prevented from opportunities such as job access every day because of it. Chances are you don’t fully understand and appreciate the culture behind the costume you’re wearing, even if you think that wearing it shows your admiration for it.

It’s easily avoidable

The bottom line is that there is a fine line between respect and appropriation, and it is our responsibility to not cross that line.

When you’re browsing through the stores for your costume, ask yourself these questions:

Does this costume promote a stereotype?

Does it include an item that is traditionally sacred to another culture?

Does this costume require me to paint my face a colour of another race for people to understand it?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these, pick something else.

Need some ideas?

But never fear, as there are still plenty of great, non-offensive options for you to choose from. If you need some help, here are some suggestions:

  • Write “book” on your face – now you’re Facebook! (Thanks, Jim Halpert).
  • A Seawolf. What is it? Who really knows? But show some school spirit.
  • A sexy cactus.
  • Thing 1 and Thing 2 – not super creative, but perfect for you and a BFF.
  • Ghost.
  • Avocado toast – tune into your basic side by smearing avocado all over yourself.
  • Regina George – That is like so fetch.
  • A student who has three finals in one day. Scary.