Amidst a pandemic, what a person wears as a Halloween costume is not necessarily the biggest concern of 2020. However, for years the damage of cultural appropriation has been overlooked and written off as harmless, and the concern of appropriating others cultures simply an expression oversensitivity from those groups. As a part of the BIPOC community (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color), I have mostly stayed silent on the issue of cultural appropriation, simply because growing up no one really taught the damaging image it creates for members of our community. As social media platforms began to expand in a more diverse direction, the concept of cultural appropriation and what draws the line between appreciation and appropriation has become blurred, what exactly is okay and what is not?
By definition, cultural appropriation is the “unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.” Costumes that would be considered a part of cultural appropriation would be dressing as a gypsy, wearing Desi and Native American garments, pretending to be a Middle Eastern princess, and wearing kimonos, which even celebrities like Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, and Rihanna have taken part in wearing. Majority of these “costumes” are oversexualized, carrying out the stereotype that foregin women are “exotic” and objectifying them. The western view of ethnic clothing has been tainted through the racism toward ethnic peoples, as it takes away their representation and forces a narrow minded view on who they are. Taking a culture or cultural tradition and recreating it to fit a sexaul lens destroys its meaning, by changing what we consider sacred and important into a basic stereotype pushes racial profiling and predetermined views onto various groups of people, sometimes negatively impacting their positions in society. Other things that fit the “cultural appropriation” category would be doing makeup in order to mimic ethinc looking features, getting protective styles done that aren’t meant for certain hair types, and tanning excessively to look like a person of color.
The purpose of pointing out all these atrocities is not to gatekeep our culture and heritage; we encourage you to learn out history and our customs, we want you to wear our clothing when you accompany us to cultural events, however this concept that our culture is a costume, something you can simply take off when the night is done is invalidating. What you get to be for one night is something that an actual person of color does not get to change. We cannot change our features, we cannot “take off” our culture and once more sit in the privilege that comes with being a non-BIPOC, we can not change who we are. The discrimination, the labeling, the stereotypes that lead to mistreatment, these are all things we carry with us each day, so respect our culture, appreciate where we come from, but don’t treat the things that make us who we are as something irrelevant and meaningless like a “costume.”
Photo Credit: Ehstigertimes