Did You Steal A Culture?

An example of a costume that is not culture appropriating.

Shayneshka Donado, Daidrien Ramoas, Journalist, Photographer

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Daidrien Ramos
A young male stealing a culture.

We all remember getting excited to throw on a costume and go trick-o-treating on October 31. It was a day where you could be anything imaginable, from a ninja to an Indian princess; but as we grow older we notice how wrong it is to steal aspects of cultures, so does this little holiday bring out cultural appropriation in all of us? Many on October 31 don’t see that what they’re doing is cultural appropriation they walk around in costumes of; Mexicans, Asian garments, Ninjas, and characters with traditional Hawaiian tattoos.They walk around in these costumes offending different cultures and not even knowing. Many even joined “We’re a Culture Not a Costume” campaign run by Ohio University to start defending their culture. Many of you may think you know what culture appropriation is but do you really understand what it is.

Culture appropriation is everywhere nowadays and a lot of people are oblivious when it comes to this topic. Culture appropriation is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own,especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture:”( defined by Cambridge dictionary). Blackface is an example of cultural appropriation from the 19th century that many people do not condone anymore because of the racism that is behind it. Blackface is when a person not of color paints their face so they could be a black character. Blackface was used to either mock the black culture or to make African Americans look bad, in many of these shows the whole race was put into stereotypes and caricatures.

This act of blackface is unacceptable in our current society but some people still think it isn’t racist, Megyn Kelly is one example of this as she defends blackface around Halloween questioning how it is racist saying “But what is racist?’ the host asked a panel that curiously did not include any black guests. ‘You truly do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface at Halloween or a black person who puts on white face.” Kelly went on to state on the Today Show that she doesn’t believe that blackface is racist especially when it come to Halloween saying, “That was OK when I was a kid, as long as you were dressing like a character,” which shows the ignorance that some people still have when it comes to cultural appropriation. Kelly is one example of how big culture appropriation is nowadays and how it is looked at as if it is alright, “as long as you were dressing like a character,” well it is not okay especially around Halloween. As people of 2018 we should know now that we should respect each other’s cultures and believes and know that it is not right to mock or make fun of someone’s culture even if it’s just supposed to be a “funny costume”.

Many of us have seen the movie Moana but what many don’t understand is that the characters are real representations of Hawaiian culture and the character Maui is a big real life representation of the culture. Maui contains tattoos all over his body of tattoos associated and belonging to the Hawaiian culture so when the costume rolled out to the market many Native Hawaiians we’re furious. Although this is a popular Disney character it is still culture appropriation  since this is a representation of the Hawaiian culture which creates a caricature of the Hawaiian people, “Very simply put, we’re talking about taking elements of someone else’s culture without permission” says Alia E. Dastagir writer of USA TODAY. This is just a matter of respect and not taking what’s not ours.

Hall High School has a major Caucasian population with a sprinkle of diversity, with the recent holiday.. Halloween, we asked Officer Maloney, Jose Rivera, and Gregory Palmquist members of the security staff at Hall High School if they saw a huge presence of cultural appropriation and they responded with a mutual decision of no. However, although they had agree they don’t see it around Hall they did not deny that it isn’t seen around West Hartford, Officer Maloney says “Most of the time on Halloween young kids dress up as princesses and superheroes and then there’s older kids that culture appropriate. I don’t think many people think about it before they do it” he tries to make the point that younger kids don’t know any better but older kids know what they’re doing and they’re very much educated on what’s wrong and what’s right but choose to ignore it. Mr. Rivera explains how he thinks “some are appropriate and some are not like for example the Mexican costume isn’t alright” further down the road we had a private conversation with Mr. Rivera and he explained he didn’t find the Mexican costume to be appropriate as we are currently in the Trump Era and our relationships with the Mexicans are not the best. He began to question why it would be appropriate to wear a Mexican costume when we’re preventing them from being here, so why be someone you don’t want in your own country?

Many people don’t even realize when they are culture appropriating. I think this is because many people don’t believe that it is that big of a deal; but that is not the case. There are many cultures that hate being costumes on Halloween because they believe that their culture is being falsely represented. Most believe that it is disrespectful and that their culture shouldn’t be treated like it’s from a Disney movie,”To treat a character like Batman or Superman as a Halloween costume is one thing, but to treat an entire ethnicity as a costume is something else. It suggests that people conflate the actual broad diversity of a culture with caricatures and characters” quotes Emanuella Grinberg from CNN. This shows how many different people get angry when their culture is being interpreted on Halloween because of the amount of disrespect that goes into most of the costumes. Most costumes take the ugly parts of the culture or a part of a culture that they can make fun of and make it into a costume mocking the culture and making it available for many to mock the culture as well.

Cultural appropriation is still very much a problem in our society and should not be ignored. Let’s becoming smarter and better than generations before, be aware of what you’re wearing and be respectful. Cultural appropriation isn’t just something you see during Halloween it’s found on a daily basis.  So with Halloween and spooky season being over answer this question: Did you steal someone’s culture?

An example of culture appropriation in a Halloween costume.

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