Dear Denison Students,
Halloween is right around the corner. This is a festive day where many age groups, especially college students, are excited to go out and celebrate becoming their favorite characters. Though it is often fun and games, people fail to realize that besides the basic princess and superhero costumes, many costumes that are being sold in stores and worn on this day are spreading racial stereotypes of marginalized groups.
Many college students often participate in wearing these costumes without realizing that they are seizing cultural identities of these groups without given consent. Kat Lazo, blogger of everydayfeminism.com, exposes one such costume in an advertisement showcasing two models representing the Native American look as “sexy Indians” with apparel consisting of fringe, feathers, and face paint. On the male’s light fair skin, a darker olive undertone color has been sprayed on to his original paler skin tone. This is not just cultural appropriation, but it’s called “blackface.”
Blackface is makeup used by non-black performers playing black roles, and are typically comedic and usually offensive (oxforddictionaries.com). Though this practice of blackface was more popular in the late 1820’s, the hidden racist message behind this act still lingers on today. Some may comment saying, “It’s only for one day. It’s not really that big of a deal. Everybody is pretending to be something they’re not.” Yes it’s true, people are pretending to be a fictional characters, but becoming and portraying a certain group of people who have been oppressed, marginalized and targeted throughout history and today does not make it okay. This endorses negative connotations about these exploited groups, encouraging and promoting racial clichés. Dressing up as Geishas, Mexicans, gang members, rap stars, etc. also promote these clichés as well. These costumes does not embrace culture, but embraces stereotypes.
Cultural appropriation has been expressed as a normality in our society. This is an issue that we need to bring attention to and solve. Instead of exploiting people from marginalized groups, our campus should embrace different cultures by accepting those who originated from these cultures to freely express themselves. It’s important for the dominant group to be willing to learn more about the cultures instead of stripping and proclaiming what’s not rightfully theirs to begin with, and stop the judgement of years of practice and traditions that make the alienated groups different. As we head into October and the spirits of Halloween kicks in, have fun but most importantly, be mindful of others.
Appreciate, not appropriate.
Slayter Box: 8875 Slayter Union