Their Culture Is Not Your Costume

Their Culture Is Not Your Costume

This Halloween, avoid appropriation.
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Halloween is fast approaching, with all of its beloved haunts. In 2017, cultural appropriation shouldn’t be among them.

Defined 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,” the concept has only recently entered the American vernacular, but consistently stirs up controversy. It’s unsurprising, given that the ‘melting pot’ metaphor is so historically distinct in the states, but with generational change comes ideological change. The norms that allowed for the sale of a Native American or Hey Amigo costume are no longer tolerated.

With cultural appropriation comes the erasure of the identity behind the culture. Native American costumes and the like condense people into singular images, and often ground them in depictions that are archaic. Distinct groups of people are watered down, wholly summated by sombreros or bindis. They are reduced to characters, on par with Harley Quinn and Batman.

The controversy is most visible when the aspects of a culture taken are celebrated on a person separate from it, but disparaged when in their proper context. Where cornrows are a popularized style on the Alexander McQueen runways, Black students at Malden charter school face detention and suspension when they wear their braids; Kylie Jenner covers Teen Vogue with her hair in dreads but on Zendaya, the style gives the impression that she “smells like patchouli oil or weed.”

Cultural differences often sustain structural inequalities in society, but on Halloween, there is widespread failure to acknowledge them.

Norwegian financial minister Siv Jensen became the subject of criticism on Friday, October 13th, after posting a photo of herself dressed in stereotypical Native American garb. Comments fall in the thousands, the majority of which echo the sentiment that a culture is not a costume. The incident has stayed out of dominant news cycles, and no statement has been procured from Jensen with regards to the backlash she’s received.

The phrase “We’re a culture, not a costume,” derives from a poster campaign conducted by Ohio University, depicting minority students with photos of people dressed as their monetized stereotypes. The result is poignant, especially when captioned “You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life.”

The idea that cultural appropriation is a liberalist overreaction to what is undoubtedly cultural exchange denies that in exchange, those from whom something is taken are repaid by some means. The ethnic groups and consequent stereotypes off of which Party City profits make no benefit to those ethnic groups. Rather, they nullify the often damaging racial and social dynamics that have impacted those groups over the course of history. They permit people to selectively engage with a culture for one night, without being impacted by the trials that members of that culture endure. They make light of the personhood that cultural groups have been denied.

Halloween is beloved for its fright. Ignorance shouldn’t be the cause for it.

Cover Image Credit: misshelsinkiofficial / Instagram

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An Open Letter To Every Athlete On Their Senior Night

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened"
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Dear Seniors,

For many of you, today was a day that you had always wished would come sooner, only to find that when the day arrived wishing for it to come was the last thing you truly ever wanted.

When stepping out onto the court or field or rink for the very last time today, take a moment to stand quietly and look out into the crowd, look to your teammates, to your coaches, and to your fellow seniors, and remember the way this made you feel, as this is a feeling you will remember for the rest of your life.

Today and every day moving forward will be filled with memories that will last you a lifetime.

Today is a day bound to be filled with endless amounts of tears, both happy and sad, so let it be. Let these feelings consume you, and serve as a reminder that no matter where you may go in life from this very moment, that you have made a family of your own. That you have changed the lives of others by just simply being in theirs.

That all the little things were really the big things, like the nicknames you had for your teammates, or your favorite song to sing in the locker room before a game. These things that never seemed to mean anything at the time are all the things that you will carry with you when you leave this place you call your home away from home.

On this day, years from now you will not remember the wins and losses of each season, but the people that took this journey with you and never let you look back.

The teammates that picked you up and carried you through the good and the bad of each day. The ones that taught you to see the good in all things. The ones who never let you live down the stupid things you did, mainly because they did them with you. And even the ones that you couldn't stand 99.9% percent of the time.

You will remember the coaches that pushed you and never let you give up.

You will remember all the times they yelled and made you run until you couldn't walk. The times that they depended on you to be the leaders we all knew you could be. But more than any of that, you will remember the opportunity they gave you to play the game you learned to love, the game that changed your life, the game that taught you more lessons about life, love and dedication than anything ever could.

On this day I ask you to remember a few things. I ask that you remember that the impact you have had on your teammates' lives is unmeasurable, never doubt that. The time you have spent dedicated to this sport that you love was never, EVER a waste of your time, because you are a better person because of it.

I ask you to remember that although the sadness you may hold in your heart overwhelms you, that you have found a part of you along this journey that will help you follow your dreams, whatever they may be.

Play your heart out today, and leave knowing you've given it all you've got just one last time. Leave knowing that you are one of the lucky ones. Remember the love, remember the defeat, remember the laughs and the tears, remember the battle wounds. Remember this feeling, always and forever.

Best of Luck,

Your Biggest Fan

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You Should Challenge Yourself Every Single Day And Reflect On It

Never shy away from doing or conquering something bigger than your comfort zone.

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Yikes, senior year is killing me. Multiple assignments are due at the same time, and I have no idea how I'm going to get it all done. I also have a late-night job one to three nights a week, so some of my nights are occupied by having fun and making money to balance my bank account. To add to that, I have student teaching, PLUS volunteering on a weekly basis.

I do a lot and I don't know how I'm surviving.

To be honest, some of this doesn't happen by chance. Of course, I have to go to class and work, but I don't have to volunteer. I don't have to dedicate my time to all of these extracurriculars, but I do. I don't have to fill every day with something to do, but there is a reason for everything.

Amid all this mess, I am challenging myself, and you should, too.

At least I am not bored every day, sitting in my room, surrounding myself with just classwork. When I was a freshman, I legit *lived* in my room, only leaving for class and meals. That's it. I didn't want to volunteer or get my face known because I was too afraid of drowning.

I was terrified of losing myself. I was scared of not having enough time. I was horrified of meeting new people, honestly.

I give props to my boyfriend, for getting me out there and for the motivation for this article. I joined extracurriculars when I was a sophomore when my boyfriend brought me to a movie night event, and I haven't been the same since. Reclusing was dangerous and I challenged myself to get out there and make a new family within the Student Center.

I owe it all to my boyfriend, and he already knows this.

Yes, right now, I may be sinking and trying to organize my thoughts. I'm trying my best not to forget everything this week, but that is also a challenge in itself. I honestly want my time occupied.

This is why you should do this, too. Get into the habit of setting goals and challenging yourself. Step outside of your comfort zone, and never shy away from conquering something bigger.

Challenging yourself can increase your self-worth. It'll start a chain reaction. Once you start, you won't stop. It may seem scary at first, believe me, but it only betters you in the end.

After busting out of your comfort zone and showing people who you really are, reflect on it. My boyfriend got me into this habit of reflecting on my week every Sunday. Reflecting on your challenges and triumphs can make a better you, and it makes you want to do it all over again.

Tell it to yourself. Stand in the mirror and tell your reflection what you learned and how you challenged yourself for the week. Help yourself out; you'll do you a favor.

Reflection is a good technique because you can go over what went right and what went wrong. You can find out what you need to do better, how to manage your time better, how to make something better. If you're daring, go from reflecting every week to reflecting every day.

It feels good to feel better. Try it.

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