Culture does not equal costume

KALYN DUNKINS ‘17

Editor-in-Chief

Halloween is right around the corner. I’m not sure why when I sit Halloween and Denison next to each other, the only synonymous event I think about is the series of parties thrown at around-the-world. Around-the-world, when people host rooms designated to imitate various places and their various (assumed) cultures. The hosts rarely, if ever, identify with any of either. Strange.

Halloween, over time, has proven to be similar. When I was little, I thought Halloween was for dressing up in costumes that were a range of anything but something designated to a group’s culture. Or, anything with a history of racial connotations attached to it.

Superheroes. Princesses. Firefighters. Symbols of Halloween—witches, pumpkins (my sister and I, circa 1996), ghosts, what have you. Fun and free of offense. Unfortunately, we all have to face the ugly side of things one day.

Growing up, I had become more and more detached from the innocence of enjoying candy and being my character of choice for the night. I was already faced with the consciousness of the judgment I may receive as now, a grown woman, for costumes that are too “prude” or “childish” or, alternatively, “racy” or “revealing.” Shortly after, alongside it, I was faced with not even enjoying my own dress-up for the sake of disrespect in someone else’s. Halloween was no longer fun.

While the idea of appropriating the cultures of some during Halloween festivities appeals to some for whatever reasons, it is definitely not okay. It doesn’t matter how much fun you are having, if you are offending someone individually and/or a group of people on the whole, you need to check yourself. I guarantee you can find something, anything, more intriguing and definitely less offensive than blackface and sombreros.

Then again, there is always talk of no one really knowing where the line is drawn. I have stumbled upon several articles this month listing various “costume ideas” that are considered inappropriate. “I didn’t know!” and “What’s the big deal?” are turning into tired excuses, because the offended groups are tired of being offended, and tired of explaining why.

So before you purchase that Deluxe Native American Headdress on eBay for $19.99 plus tax and shipping, be considerate of the group whose culture that headdress actually originates from. We all have room to learn.

Respect does not grow old.

Kalyn Dunkins is a cinema and black studies double-major, creative writing minor from Birmingham, Alabama.