Halloween is tomorrow, October 31! Halloween is a holiday celebrated in many countries on October 31 to remember the dead. There are many fun traditions to do at home with family and/or friends, such as decorating, trying recipes, and carving pumpkins.
When it comes to dressing up in costume for Halloween, it is important to know the difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation. Cultural Appropriation is defined as "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." On the other hand, Cultural Appreciation is defined as "seeking to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden one's perspective and connect with others cross-culturally."
Dressing up in a costume that represents a person of a minority background (that you are not a part of) is inappropriate. Doing so means minimizing that culture to stereotypes and outerwear that can be taken off, as writer Langkilde discusses in “My Culture is Not Your Costume.” But people from that background are not able to take off their cultural heritage or the history of suffering and discrimination - they have to live with that daily. Pretending to be of someone else’s culture is extremely disrespectful and distasteful.
If you want to respect a certain culture, educate yourself about it. Learn their history and their present - everything that they have gone through and continue to go through today. Talk to people of that background and build understanding of them, not just for one day, but all year long.
Instead of dressing up as someone else’s background, dress up as something fun, such as an animal or movie character (without adding the extra physical features of their ethnicity/culture, if applicable). As Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez says, “when in doubt, choose a different costume.”
Jenna Nguo is a junior at the University of California, Riverside. She is majoring in psychology and minoring in education. She is currently a Marketing and Communications Student Assistant at the International Affairs office, as well as a Co-Director of Events and Outreach at Psi Chi, the psychology honor society at UCR.