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What Not to Wear for Halloween: Cultural Appropriation 101

Without a doubt, Halloween is one of the best times of the year. It’s a time to dress up as your favorite superhero, movie character, memes, role-play a future occupation, or just dress absolutely ridiculous for no reason. With the outrageous makeup and crazy wigs, it’s sure to be a good time. Unfortunately, sometimes this fun comes at the expense of others. The spookiest part of Halloween is the rampant cultural appropriation that will have you shaking in your boots. Here are some tips on how to know if you are culturally appropriating this Halloween!

1) Someone else’s skin can never be considered a “costume”.

Blackface, brownface, any face that isn’t your color is downright racist. Just remember that you are able to wash off your Halloween makeup and go right back to being yourself. People of color don’t have that option. As tempting as it may be to want to play a thug rapper, or dress up as your favorite Black tv star, know that slaying these costumes can be done without painting your face. You’ll be playing the part just as well!

2) Making fun of someone’s religion isn’t risqué nor frisky.

One too many times, we’ve seen people dressed up as slutty nuns and naughty popes/pastors. In the real world, there are essentially no “sexy” priests, monks, or “bad habit nuns”. It is not something that should be taken lightly. For many religious people, cassocks, veils, and turbans aren’t costumes at all. They are important elements of their faith and practice and should not be mocked.

3) Don’t dress up as a culture that’s not your own, or embodies traditions that don’t align with your own heritage.

Ask yourself these questions before dressing up: Is my costume representative of a community's pain and suffering? Does my costume belong to a culture that is not part of my heritage? If the answer is yes to one or both those questions, ditch the costume. The "sexy" Geisha costume reinforces racist tropes about Asian women, and fetishizes their culture. That fake Mexican sombrero you may be thinking of wearing is offensive. The face paint and feather look mocks the suffering of millions of Native Americans in this country. Think to yourself, would you wear that costume around that group of people you’re dressing up as? If the answer is no, you shouldn’t feel comfortable wearing it to a Halloween party!

You can appreciate someone’s culture without trying to be it or imitate it. (maybe add something about researching the culture and taking time to engage with people and learn more)

4) Don’t dress up as a person with a disability.

Not only is this enforcing an ableist agenda, it is extremely offensive. There are enough barriers for people with disabilities, and costumes are just a mockery of it all. Using a mobility device as a part of a Halloween costume is also offensive. If you want to dress up as a Grandma, leave the cane, wheelchair, or walker out of it. It is inconsiderate to those who are not able bodied. This includes mental illness! Dressing up as Anna Rexia isn’t okay. This just increases the stigma around people who suffer from mental illnesses worldwide.

5) Don’t wear anything you can’t readily explain the history.

Before you step out to have a lit night or perhaps before you make the purchase, ask yourself if you understand and comprehend the history of what you are wearing. What makes your costume funny or entertaining? If it really interests you, take time to do your research about the meaning behind the costume, and engage with the people of that culture to learn more. Someone's life is not an aesthetic!

Make sure that the environment this Halloween is comfortable for EVERYONE. The Renegade wishes you a safe and fun night!

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