This Halloween, it's time for us to ditch the kimono, the sari and the mariachi suit.
During the beginning of my senior year, my school decided to host a "Cowboys and Indians" dress up day event as a welcoming event for new and returning students. To the blind eye, this seems like a great event. We're based in Norco, colloquially called "Horsetown U.S.A," so to many, the event seemed like a perfect fit for the culture of the school. However, what many failed to see between the lines was a perpetration of cultural appropriation, prejudices and the overwhelming stereotypes associated with cowboys and Native Americans.
Being part Native American, I took great offense to the creation of the event. Not only is tribal wear dress seen as sacred in Native American culture, but hosting an event such as this glorifies the mass destruction, annihilation and cultural genocide that my people endured. What's worse is that while I publicly advocated the ending of this event, many believed that it was an overreaction, something that shouldn't be taken seriously.
Such is the case for many Halloween costumes. Although it's done with the best of intentions, many fail to realize the weight of their costume and the cultural significance it holds. Believe it or not, the sari, kimono and other cultural clothing are deeply respected items of clothing in their culture. You wouldn't have a "Dress like Jesus" or "Dress like Buddha" event, but the misuse of cultural items essentially promotes intolerance to different culture's religious and social practices. We are more than a pop culture symbol, a meaningless symbol, or a mere accessory. By allowing cultural appropriation to seep into society, we are continuing the horrible atrocities of genocide, war and bigotry that we swore to prevent.
By focusing on the little things like a simple Halloween costume, we can work together to change the culture of the next generation. However, anyone can point out the problems in society; it's up to brave people who want to stand up and bring light towards a dark situation. Without further ado, here are some ways you can promote inclusiveness and cultural awareness this Halloween!
1. Refuse to consciously participate in cultural appropriations. People take a stand when you do. By choosing a Halloween costume that promotes diversity and tolerance, you can make a difference in the cultural awareness movement! You can still have a good time on your Halloween -- you don't have to dress up like a stereotypical cultural group to enjoy your holiday.
2. Do your own research. If you look at Halloween costume ideas on a Pinterest board or a random article, you'll be amazed at how many promote cultural appropriation. This Halloween, take a mental note of how many Native Americans, Mexican mariachi bands and Arab costumes you see; and you'll notice that it's a realistic and active problem in our society. By educating yourself on the topic, you'll be better prepared to speak out against culturally insensitive costumes.
3. Speak out. You have a voice, and it's time for you to use it! I challenge each and every one of you to use your #selfiesunday for a good cause. Take a picture of yourself in your culturally aware costume, complete with a sign that says, "I promote cultures, NOT costumes." This seemingly small act can open the door to conversation, and can pave the way for our society to speak out about other cultural problems within America. When people get talking, solutions begin forming and change is birthed
If we truly are the hope of the next generation, it is time for us to rise up and make a difference for causes greater than our own. Let's quit donning the Native American feather headdress, the sombrero and dreadlocks, and instead put on the ideals that will never go out of style: awareness, dignity and inclusiveness.