Choose Halloween costumes that aren’t offensive

It’s official — fall is finally here. Fall is, by far, the best season for many reasons. The leaves are changing colors, bugs are returning to the hell where they belong, it is finally cold enough that I can wear my flannels and sweaters without melting and, of course, the main reason fall is the best season — Halloween. Halloween is the best holiday. It is the time for horror movie marathons, being able to buy candy in bulk without getting weird looks and dressing up as something you would never be able to pull off on a normal day. It is the holiday in which you get to release your inner child and be as creative as you want. It brings happiness and creativity to our boring, everyday lives, and everyone gets a free pass to be whatever they want for a night, whether it be a dragon or a ketchup bottle. It’s a time when you can escape the stressfulness of everyday life and return to the silly, playful side of life.
Along with this freedom to be anything you want, though, is a darker side to the perfect costume search. One thing people don’t think about when they choose their costume is whether or not what they are choosing is going to be offensive to another’s culture. Cultural appropriation is a sociological concept that views the use, borrowing or adoption of elements from a culture that is not yours as a negative and offensive phenomenon. Now more than ever, people are aware of this concept. Most people, including myself, have fallen prey to choosing a costume that was not “sensitive” to other cultures. I firmly believe most people, when they choose their costumes, do not think about how their costume might affect other people. They think it is all in good fun and don’t intend to offend any groups of people, which is why I firmly believe people should educate themselves about cultural appropriation and think about how their intended costume could be potentially offensive to others.
Often, the cultures appropriated are ones that belong to a minority, like a Mexican tequila girl, Native American, anything involving blackface, geisha or even Catelyn Jenner. The list goes on and on. There has even been a photo campaign started by students at Ohio University titled “We’re culture, not costume” in the hopes of spreading awareness about the racial insensitivities that occur during the Halloween season. The posters started circulating in 2011 and the campaign has since gone viral, found on many media platforms. One poster’s caption reads “You wear the costume for one night, I wear the stigma for life.” This one phrase, I think, perfectly sums up how detrimental it can be to a person to see someone walking around in a costume of their culture — only for that person to go home at the end of the night and take it off and return to their own lives without understanding the culture they just misrepresented. For minorities who see their culture being stereotyped, this can be painful, angering and an overall uncomfortable experience.
If we continue to buy these costumes, we only solidify the stereotypes attached to them. I challenge people to think more carefully about what or who they choose to be this Halloween season. It is our duty as decent human beings to listen to what those that are offended are trying to say and about how they are affected by our choices in costumes. After all, it is their culture and their identity that we’re putting on display. Halloween is an all-inclusive holiday, and we should want to make it feel that way for all peoples.