Shedding Light on Cultural Appropriation in Halloween Costumes


Society continues to evolve as people’s opinions change over the years, accepting and rejecting many different concepts and trends as they come and go from the world as time goes on. Today, in a country where people are so strict about what is right and wrong in terms of politically correctness, it is surprising that Halloween has become such an outlier from this range of rights versus wrongs.

The inappropriate use or mockery of people and their traditions, also known as cultural appropriation, is deeply rooted in the celebration of Halloween as it is known today, even though that root is one shrouded in ignorance and of a dark origin.

Cultural appropriation may not always be harmful, but it is evident that is is sparked from the oblivion and disconcern of people who believe they are above all others. One of the most infamous historical cases of cultural appropriation is blackface, originating back in the 1800s and somehow still appearing at Halloween each year. While of course not all cultural appropriation is created with such hatred and mockery in mind, being mimicked can be just as inappropriate and unsettling to the culture.

Another costume that fits this criteria is the Native American. The costume of the Native American may not have the same hatred imbued in it as blackface, but it has an equally dark past with the same ignorance behind it.

Each of these cultural appropriations has their own unique reasons behind both their existence and why they it must be made clear the wrongs behind each one.

Blackface was created as a way to mock and laugh at African Americans during the social tensions before the Civil War. It was created to make a joke out of an innocent group of people who had been treated unequally since birth. The Civil War ended over 150 years ago, the movements of Martin Luther King Jr. were over half a century ago, and continued pursuits at racial equality still exist today. However, this ancient propaganda still stands. It was made for those who believed African Americans were inferior and enjoyed their sufferings. Those same people who laughed as this mockery originated are long dead; it is time that this hellish tradition die along with them.

More widespread costumes are those based off of Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the Spanish holiday of remembrance. These costumes are most often based off of the famous sugar skull which is a big part of the holiday, but was not meant to be its symbol.

Without a doubt, the costumes of Día De Los Muertos were not created to mock the holiday or make fun of the people involved in the celebration, but rather to celebrate the beauty behind the things that inspired the costumes, the sugar skulls. The thing that makes this cultural appropriation is that the sugar skulls are not the main point of the holiday. That would be similar to saying that chocolate is representative of Easter, when in reality that holiday is based off of both religion and tradition.

The same goes for the Día De Los Muertos. It is a celebration of those who were lost. November 1st and 2nd are days to both mourn loved ones who passed away and celebrate their accomplishments and memories. Therefore, it is important to realize that Día De Los Muertos should not be glorified as sugar and partying, but should instead remain outside of Halloween and be recognized as the celebration of the dead that it really is.

Native American costumes are another mostly unintentional attack on tradition. They may not be created to mock the indigenous people, but the story of the Native Americans can not be ignored. To put it simply, they were torn from their homes, massacred in monstrous numbers, and separated from their land, people, and traditions they were raised to love. So even if the costume was not made as mockery, it would be disrespectful to wear an outfit that represents centuries of mistreatment, murder, betrayal, and unspeakable crimes.

There are, and will always be, certain things that are wrong about Halloween that society will never accept, but it is many people’s favorite holiday as they celebrate in a variety of ways. Whether it be partying, trick or treating, or just watching scary movies, people often look passed what is wrong and focus on what is good. Halloween deserves the love it gets, but everyone must always be aware of the looming darkness behind every bright light.

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