Dear White People, Other Cultures Are Not Your Halloween Costume
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Dear White People, Other Cultures Are Not Your Halloween Costume


Dear White People, Other Cultures Are Not Your Halloween Costume

Today I am writing as a white person aware of my privilege. If you clicked on this link and thought, “Yikes. White people have to have a say on everything, don’t they?” then I completely understand. And I will not separate myself from the “they” that you reference. But today, I am hoping to speak specifically to white people about the topic of cultural appropriation. And I am hoping that any white person who wants to be aware of their privilege will take the time to read this article and consider why Halloween is such a damaging time of year for minority groups in America.

So how do you know if this article is for you? Well...

  1. Have you gone as an “Indian princess” or “Native American babe” or Pocahontas, or in any way imitated Native American culture for Halloween?
  2. Have you ever gone as Cleopatra or imitated Egyptian culture in any way?
  3. Have you gone as a geisha or a “Kung-fu warrior” or imitated Asian culture in any way?
  4. Have you gone as a g*psy?
  5. Have you ever done “sugar skull” makeup or imitated costumes from Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)?
  6. Have you ever worn a costume that trivializes and oversimplifies another culture when you, yourself, are not of that culture?

If you can answer yes to any of those questions, then you are the target audience of this article.

Simply because of our skin color, we both can close this article and act like we never saw it. I can close out of this browser, you can hit the back arrow, and we both can move on. Because as white people, our privilege is the ability to be ignorant. You and I can afford to ignore issues of cultural appropriation because they don’t affect us. Our culture is the most powerful one in society today. There is a power dynamic in our world, and we’re the ones in charge.

So can you move on and pretend like you haven’t appropriated a culture on Halloween? Yep! But if you are the kind of person who cares about other people, then you should make every effort to become aware of cultural appropriation and stop it where you can. That’s literally it: do you care about other cultures? If yes, then sit back and get educated.

I can honestly tell you that I have gone as a geisha and as Cleopatra. I almost did a sugar skull one year, too, but my feminist-af mother stopped me (thank goodness). I am fully aware that I can take on these roles with no penalty to myself. You can, too. But whenever you go as a costume from another culture, you are furthering the power dynamic that puts white people on top and colored people on the bottom.

But I’m white, and I have no place to speak on that. Here is a helpful link that explains cultural appropriation extremely eloquently and gives specific reasons why it is hurtful.

(I advise you to click on all the sites I reference in this article. It would be ignorant and inconsiderate for me to summarize the perspectives of people of color, so these links are really your best bet at understanding cultural appropriation.)

SEE ALSO: White People, Please Don't Paint A Sugar Skull On Your Face This Halloween

Once you are done reading that link, take a step back and think. How many times have you watched a TV show that appropriates another culture’s traditions? How many times have you seen a celebrity sport a traditionally-black hairstyle, like cornrows or locs? How many times have you seen a friend throw on a pair of fluffy Uggs and a jacket and call herself an esk*mo? If you’re really being honest, the answer is probably, “A whole lot.” And you’d be right.

So the presence of culturally appropriated Halloween costumes? Totally understandable, given how we don’t teach the average person how to identify appropriation when it happens, and how our society specifically protects white people and demeans minority groups. But as a white person, it is your job to wake up, smell the roses, and do your best to advocate for minority groups this time of year. Most importantly, do not get defensive. Listen when colored advocates speak, and expect your peers to do the same.

This Halloween, make an effort to educate yourself on cultural appropriation so you can identify it. Call your friends out when they say they are going as a Native American or a geisha or a sugar skull. And please-oh-please, do not appropriate another culture this Halloween. You are in a position of power; use your powers for good.

Here is a list of links that explain cultural appropriation in greater detail, and a list of costumes that are considered cultural appropriation. Read these links, and share them. Every white person you know can benefit from knowing more about how racism works in our society. And please, when you know better, do better.


  1. List of culturally appropriated Halloween costumes and what to wear instead
  2. A great video that breaks down what cultural appropriation of specific cultures looks like and why it is hurtful
  3. Further explanation of what cultural appropriation is and how to pick up on it when it occurs
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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