By Leela Bhowmilk and Ryah Mcadams
What is Cultural Appropriation?
Using another culture or tradition for disrespectful purposes such as sexualization, profit, and comedic relief. Last week, the Youth and Young Adult Coalition for Honesty for Ohio Education held a workshop shedding light on the complexity of cultural appropriation during Halloween.
Examples of Cultural Appropriation in Halloween Costumes
Sacred Native Americans traditional clothing, misuse of traditional Hawaiian clothing, blackface, the use of natural black hair as wigs, Hindu gods, chicano and cholo styles, “gypsies”, terrorists, and criminals. There are also Halloween Costumes that are not cultural appropriation but are offensive such as dressing up as a mental patient, and a homeless person.
Why does Cultural Appropriation Matter?
Cultural appropriation matters because it perpetuates discrimination, racism, and stereotypes. Specifically during Halloween dressing up as another culture sends the message that other cultures are costumes and something to be used for entertainment. This others the real people that identify with these cultures. Native costumes such as Pocahontas or a hula dancer are particularly offensive costumes because for years Native people have not been able to participate in their culture while non-native people have used their years of generational repression as an off-brand costume. Dressing up as another culture or race further promotes the “othering” of peoples who are already fighting against harmful stereotyping and oppression.
Leela Bhowmilk and Ryah Mcadams are juniors at Worthington Kilbourne High School and are writing interns for Erase the Space.