My Culture Is Not a Costume
The “My Culture Is Not a Costume” campaign, designed to provide education and awareness around cultural appropriation associated with costumes, was developed in 2011 by a student organization at OHIO – STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society).
What is cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is defined by dictionary.com as “the adoption, usually without acknowledgment, of cultural identity markers from subcultures or minority communities into mainstream culture by people with a relatively privileged status.”
Why is cultural appropriation awareness especially important during Halloween?
When thinking about a Halloween costume, it is increasingly important to ensure that you are not attempting to adopt an identity that is not your own. Though you may think you are harmlessly dressing up for one night, portraying such stereotypes has a longstanding impact. This practice does not exhibit the expectations of respect across differences we expect from all Bobcats.
Some culturally inappropriate costume ideas include:
- Anything representing blackface, brownface, or yellowface: The practice of blackface has deep societal and historical roots that perpetuate negative stereotypes about people of color.
- Costumes that represent harmful racial or ethnic stereotypes: There is an abundance of costumes worn yearly on Halloween that make light of deeply rooted perceptions including gypsy, geisha, Día De Los Muertos skeleton costumes or costumes that depict Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Southeast Asian, Indigenous or Native American cultures.
- Making a mockery of mental illness: Consider not wearing straitjackets, or anything that trivializes the experience of institutionalization or people who experience mental illness.
- Wearing hairstyles of people of color: Adopting a hairstyle that does not belong to your culture, such as an afro, braids, or dreadlocks, can be seen as culturally inappropriate.
- Transphobic/homophobic costumes: It is harmful to make light of the experiences of those who identify as transgender through a Halloween costume.