It's a Culture, Not a Costume

Halloween is a great time of year. The fun seems endless as you dress up in wild costumes, go out with friends, and try not to freeze your butt off in the cold Michigan weather.  However, it is also a time when many make inappropriate decisions about how to dress for the holiday and wear costumes that would constitute cultural appropriation.  

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation is often adopted by those who hold power and privilege in society, while the cultures they are misrepresenting tend to be marginalized and disenfranchised.

Cultural appropriation often occurs on Halloween when individuals choose to wear costumes that present aspects of another culture in a joking fashion.  This can take the form of Inuit costumes, Geisha costumes, gangster Costumes, Native American costumes, etc. A costume that is focused on aspects of a culture that is not yours can reinforce offensive stereotypes and humiliate the people you are attempting to represent.  

This Halloween, Expect Respect would encourage you to think of clever, witty, and fun costumes that are culturally appropriate. Having trouble deciding what to wear? Check out this page from Today for some suggestions. Remember, Halloween should be a celebration of your creativity. So, dig through your closet and pull out an outfit that will wow your friends without appropriating another culture.


-Contributed by Yolanda Marti and Gabe Colman, Expect Respect