Cultural appropriation has become a buzzword in the mainstream media in the past few years, leading to an array of different definitions for the term. The Cambridge dictionary defines Cultural Appropriation as “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.”
Members of The Redlands Bulldog reached out to some leaders of multicultural clubs and organizations on campus to get a read on how cultural appropriation can affect the people that their clubs represent, and what you can do to be an active and aware ally this Halloween.
Middle Eastern Students Association
Vice President and junior, Michaela Syage
“Cultural appropriation is an important discussion to have, especially around Halloween. The intention of dressing up on Halloween is to wear a costume, to be somebody you’re not, right? Dressing up in cultural apparel that isn’t your culture, on the night where everyone wears costumes, isn’t appreciating the culture, it’s appropriating it. Intent matters. There’s a fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.
There are tons of costumes mimicking traditional Middle Eastern and Arab apparel for men and women. These “costumes” draw upon false stereotypes of Arab culture as well. A lot of this has to do with cultural insensitivity and ignorance.”
Native American Student Union:
Junior, Christina Lara
“Of course Native Americans are very common to see costumes depicting Native things, like wearing feathers on your head, dresses with fringe, face painting. Those images are disrespectful to see, especially because we are a small group of people and sometimes people don’t know we exist. So seeing those things is like putting natives in the past, like as a joke.
Cultural appropriation gives a stereotype, like we all wear feathers. It leads to a lot of frustration, like when people come up to us and are like ‘Oh do you still live in teepees and put your hand over your mouth and do that [howling] thing’… it ticks us off every time.”
It’s not just halloween for us. We see it at music festivals, on people’s cars, in fashion. It’s not just on Halloween, it’s everywhere. We try and educate as much as possible, but if people don’t want to hear what you have to say it doesn’t do anything.
Outside Halloween, when you see stuff like dream catchers, it’s like a little tiny poke, but on Halloween it’s everywhere. Which is really inappropriate, when people make the howling sounds, or when you see dead natives [portrayed] where they are bloody [representing genocide]. Or you see people in these dresses and it doesn’t look like anything that we wear.”
Asian Student Association
Co-chairs Teddy Hansen and Niki Binondo:
“Our campus does a pretty good job being informative on current issues about appropriation. People usually don’t want to cause harm by wearing these costumes. It’s worse when people are told about their problematic behavior and refuse to fix it that it becomes a problem. You don’t have to be black, or Asian, or Native American to point out cultural appropriation. You shouldn’t be scared to. If you have to question it, it’s probably appropriative. It’s not okay to take cultural garb out of context, like an authentic kimono, and use it for fashion.”
Brilliant Leaders Advocating Color Consciousness (BLACC)
Senior Afari La-Anyane
“To us, cultural appropriation is something that occurs constantly and while we are really happy that people talk about it in the context of Halloween, there are so many subtleties that get overlooked. In today’s day and age, a lot of us have access to information, like, for example, doing blackface is offensive, and most people understand that and agree. Some people do not realize they might be perpetrators to other, less obvious forms of “blackface” and appropriation. like using dark skin emojis as jokes, exclusively using gifs of black people to represent your moods, or using AAVE and ebonics for comedic effect.”
Halloween is a once-a-year creative opportunity for radical self expression. This year, take this opportunity to use your own creativity and gifts to come up with a costume that is uniquely and awesomely your own, instead of based in something that already exists. You can avoid inadvertently playing into stereotypes and caricature simply by breaking the cycle. You personally can be accountable and helpful in the fight for a more color-conscious and fair University of Redlands.
chart design created by Michael Palmer, taken from College Humor website.