Culture is Not a Costume: Understanding and Respecting Cultures
If you choose to take part in any Halloween activities this weekend, we ask you to be responsible and respectful so that we maintain a safe and welcoming community. Costumes that are racist, crude, or culturally insensitive can impact others. Before choosing a costume that represents a culture or an identity that you don’t hold, think about the significance of culture and how we can appreciate and learn from differing backgrounds rather than appropriating other identities in a harmful way.
Culture is a means through which society creates a context from which individuals derive meaning and prescriptions for successful living within that culture (language and speech patterns, standards of dress, icons, holidays that are celebrated, values, etc).
Learning about another culture with respect and courtesy; taking the time to learn about it, interacting with people who are a part of the culture, and actually understanding the culture. Examples: Attending programs created by multicultural student organizations, studying abroad
Sharing information about differing backgrounds to understand each other; when people share mutually with each other, because cultural exchange lacks that systemic power dynamic. Examples: Participating in a cultural exchange program; language partner programs
When a minority ethnic group loses traditional cultural elements while gaining cultural elements from the ethnic majority over time, often for personal, economic, and political reasons; when marginalized people adopt elements of the dominant culture in order to survive conditions that make life more of a struggle if they don’t. Examples: Immigrants/Refugees learning English as a second+ language when entering workforce or K-12; international students adopting English names
When somebody adopts aspects of a culture that’s not their own. It is often viewed as disrespectful when cultural elements are copied from a marginalized culture by members of the dominant culture and used outsize of their cultural context. Examples: Katy Perry’s approach in several music videos, stereotyped costumes
Costumes should be creative and imaginative. Consider how someone else would feel if you dressed like a stereotype or a culture that you do not directly identify with. Think about whether or not you’re turning someone’s everyday 21st century culture into a caricature.
Think about Source Culture
Is your costume from a culture that has been historically or currently discriminated against or oppressed?
Think about Significance (sacredness)
What’s the significance of your costume items? Example: Eagle feathers are earned in certain indigenous communities and gifted to individuals by elders of communities.
In the end, it’s your choice, but ask yourself if you would feel comfortable wearing your costume among people from that culture. Would it feel awkward? How would it be received? Would someone call you out? Would it go viral on social media? Think about your decisions.
Culture: means through which society creates a context from which individuals derive meaning and prescriptions for successful living within that culture (language and speech patterns, standards of dress, icons, holidays that are celebrated, values, etc).