Cultures are not acceptable costumes

Halloween is one of the few opportunities each year where students at the University of San Diego have the option to embody whatever or whomever they would like to for the night. Dressing up is one of the best parts of Halloween and is mostly done in good fun. However, some people aren’t satisfied with a monster or a ghost, and they turn to offensive stereotypes for costume inspiration.

USD’s Office of Student Affairs has noticed this trend and is hoping to discourage its prevalence on USD’s campus. The organization has posted fliers around campus urging students to consider the impact of culturally offensive Halloween costumes. The fliers feature a Latino man holding a picture of someone dressed in a sombrero and poncho riding a donkey, paired with the words “we’re a culture, not a costume,” and “this is not who I am and this is not okay.” The fliers aim to bring awareness to the issue these types of costumes pose for people of these cultures.

While many people may not realize the ramifications of their chosen costumes, the issue of cultural appropriation is something minority cultures regularly combat. Celebrities and media outlets come under fire all the time for instances of cultural appropropriation, yet it continues to occur.

Many of these instances are a simple misunderstanding. Most people know, for instance, wearing blackface is offensive, but for other costumes the lines can sometimes blur. A hula dancer or Pocahontas costume may not register as offensive for many people. For people of island or Native American culture, these costumes can be seen in bad taste.

Although ignorance is no excuse, for the most part, people aren’t wearing these types of costumes with malicious intent. Thus, spreading attention about the problems with these types of costumes is a great step on USD’s part to combat these issues.

Senior Chelsea McLin is the vice president of the Black Student Union. McLin pointed out that the intention of cultural appropriation isn’t the main issue; rather, there is a lack of understanding of why it’s wrong.

“I think cultural appropriation happens because, one, people don’t realize what they’re doing is offensive, or two, they know it’s offensive, and they don’t care,” McLin said. “But [sometimes,] I think about how conditioned we are to take other people’s cultures as our own. Think about how many days [some of us may have] dressed up as Indians for a spirit day at school. We wear the costume for a day or night, and then we’re done. When someone culturally appropriates [like this,] it says to that culture, you’re good enough for one day. [It says] it’s cool and trendy, but I don’t want any of the struggles you deal with everyday, [but] one night is ok.”

Even if you don’t think your costume is offensive, it’s important to look at it from a different point of view. While it’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of Halloween and try and dress creatively, it is important to respect other cultures and viewpoints. When in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Dressing up is about not being yourself for the night, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t mean it’s okay to appropriate someone else’s culture.

By Dani DeVries, Opinion Editor