Be aware of cultural appropriation and offensive costumes before celebrating Halloween

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Halloween is right around the corner and picking a costume can be tricky. Certain outfits and make up can be considered offensive by some groups, so this is an article encouraging people to pause, think and educate themselves before choosing their costume.

“Going in Blackface, going in redface, going as a victim, going as a refugee, there’s no space where that is acceptable,” Danicia Monet Malone said. Malone is the Programs & Facility Director at Purdue University’s Black Cultural Center.

“You can still learn about it, celebrate it with other members of that culture, but in just wearing the costume of such, even simple jewelry, if you don’t understand the history and why it’s important, that’s cultural appropriation,” Malone said.

Cultural appropriation is the unacknowledged or inappropriate use of customs, practices and ideas that are often those of minority groups. One local Latino leader says an example would be wearing a sombrero and mustache. While other costumes could be considered offensive.

“What you’re dressing up as when you are the wall is potentially something that is depicting maybe the worst day of someone’s life, or something they’ve had to endure, or daily endure, or are afraid of,” Elise Shrock said. “I guess I just don’t understand where that is fun.”

Shrock is the President of the Indiana Democrat Latino Caucus. Shrock believes the privilege she says comes along with being in the majority should play a role when picking a costume.

“I would really encourage people to acknowledge their privilege in that instance,” Shrock said. “If you are a white, cisgender person who gets to play dress up as a minority, and you get to choose to have that identity or race, that’s a privilege. There are a lot of people who don’t have that privilege and actually face the consequences of discrimination in our country. They don’t get to have the choice to be a certain race, and the wonderful and the problematic behavior that our society has encouraged comes with that.”

Malone said this is a time for more dialogue and education.

“I think this would be a great time to dig into history,” Malone said. “If you’re interested in going as a historical figure, great. That doesn’t mean that you have to go in the skin color of that figure. You can represent that figure and celebrate that person without participating in cultural appropriation.”

Shrock said a good question to ask yourself is whether you need to explain why your costume is not insensitive. If you have to explain that, she said that is probably your answer.

“To people who say they are just having fun, I would say to that you can’t just take the best of our cultures for one day a year and then probably just disregard us the rest of the year,” Shrock said. “When it comes to Hispanic and Latino costumes, I would also say that I’ve seen some pretty traumatic costumes. I don’t think it’s funny when people dress up as a wall or a caricature of a Latino person. What you’re dressing up as when you are the wall is potentially something that is depicting maybe the worst day of someone’s life, or something they’ve had to endure, or daily endure, or are afraid of. I guess I just don’t understand where that is fun.”

Shrock tells FOX59, if anyone has ever worn a culturally insensitive or offensive outfit, they should own their mistake.

“People have made mistakes,” Shrock said. “People need to learn from them. It really starts with acknowledging it as a mistake and a personal choice.”

She added learning about, and understanding, other cultures is a lifelong journey.

“I am a white facing Hispanic woman,” Shrock said. “I am trying to educate myself all the time. I don’t have the same perspective that others have. If you think you’ve done something questionable in the past, make it right. Start learning about the culture that you may have appropriated, dig into what that means, examine your own conscience and try to move forward.”

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