Cultural Appropriation and Halloween

Perhaps one of the scariest aspects of Halloween is neither the horror films nor the haunted houses, but the Halloween costumes that misappropriate other cultures. Although the social phenomenon of cultural appropriation is prevalent in other contexts, such as within fashion industries or music festivals, Halloween entails a notable amount of cultural appropriation cases as well. 

(All images courtesy of Ohio University)

To give a little context, cultural appropriation is defined as the act of using certain aspects of another culture for personal gain. This is usually done without the permission of the traditional holders and without properly understanding the cultural significance of what was misappropriated. Also, cultural appropriation generally occurs between a socially dominant group and a minority group such that the appropriator is usually the superior group.  

This issue of cultural appropriation, particularly during Halloween, is exemplified through the use of stereotypical costumes such as those of Mexicans, Native Americans, Day of the Dead skeletons, or Geishas. It is inappropriate to wear costumes that represent other cultures for mere amusement or entertainment because it would be the equivalent of belittling deep cultural heritages as trivial costumes. Not only, but it also emulates historic patterns of racial oppression. For instance, when people apply “black face” makeup to emulate black celebrity figures and don’t speak on how black people were discriminated against for their skin color, this becomes an act of cultural appropriation because it is disrespectful towards the black identity. 

Therefore, it is important to have the right intentions when choosing Halloween costumes because participating in cultural appropriation is essentially being culturally insensitive. There is a greater need to adequately appreciate other cultures instead of exploiting them for self-indulgence. 

by. Han, Taeyeon