Their Culture Is Not Your Costume

Their Culture Is Not Your Costume

This Halloween, avoid appropriation.

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.

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10 Things To Do In The Lehigh Valley During The Spring

A list of things to do in the Lehigh Valley once the weather gets nicer.

It’s mid-January, and most of us have one thing in common, “Cabin Fever.” We are all waiting for the temperatures to rise, the snow to be gone, and Spring to be ushered in! Here is a list of 10 things to do here in the Lehigh Valley when the weather gets a bit nicer:

1. Take a hike through Jacobsburg State Park

2. Visit Bethlehem, Easton, or Allentown

3. Take the family out to an IronPigs ball game

4. Taste the ice cream at Klein Farms in Easton

5. Take a hike throughout Columcille Megalith Park

6. Shop for fresh local produce and snacks at the Easton Farmers Market

7. Experience history firsthand while walking on the Bethlehem Steel Trestle Walk

8. Take a hike through Illick’s Mill Park

9. Eat at the Bayou in Easton or Momma Ninas in Bethlehem

10. Head over to the Saylorsburg Flea Market to find all sorts of treasures

These are just a few of the countless places to explore, eat, hike, or shop in the Lehigh Valley, what else would you add to the list?`

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What Christmas Means To Me: An Atypical Prayer

You are where my life began and continues to grow, and the love is always unconditional, never ending, and felt as soon as you walk in the door.

This last Christmas, my grandfather gave me the opportunity to write the grace and prayer that is read before Christmas Dinner. Though it may not sound much like a typical prayer or a traditional grace, it sounded a little something like this:

"When I think of Christmas, I think of this moment right here. The one where we are all gathered together, bound together by love in a place where so many memories have been made. It’s the time that we get to spend together that makes Christmas so special, not the presents, not the food (though it is delicious and I’ll never say no to another one of Grandma’s cookies), but instead the bond that we continue to strengthen each and every year when we come together.

So this Christmas, I am thankful to be surrounded by a family that loves me. As I said in an article of mine that came out earlier this week, “never is the love in my house one-sided”, and that rings true here today. God has given us this holiday not only to celebrate Christ’s birth but also to remind us that the love of this family is never one-sided. It reminds us how special this family is, and how lucky we are to have one another.

I could not ask for better people to have in my life. I could not ask for better grandparents to teach me so many life lessons and to be there whenever I needed someone to turn to, parents that raised me into the strong, independent, and loving young woman that I am today, and a sister that I’ve become so much closer to this year and am proud to call my best friend. I could not ask for a better aunt and uncle that have never failed to make me feel loved and are always there to support me in everything that I do, and cousins that always take time to make sure I’m ok and give life advice that has helped shape who I am as I grow up. I could not ask for better little boys to be my little boys and bring joy and laughter to my life, and a dog that makes me happy to come home and I can always count on for kisses.

Christmas is my favorite holiday, but not for the reasons many people may think. It’s not because of the presents, or the cookies (though I do love them so please make as many as you can Grandma), but because of the love, I get to experience on this day. Family is where life starts and the love never ends, and in this family, this rings true. You are where my life began and continues to grow, and the love is always unconditional, never-ending, and felt as soon as you walk in the door.

Merry Christmas, I love you all with all my heart."

Christmas may be over, but the words in this prayer still ring true. Though people change and every holiday is different in its own way, these words will forever ring true.

Cover Image Credit: Nancy Summer

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