As October flies by, haunted houses and costume shops will be popping up on every corner. The anticipation to find the perfect costume will run high. With so many options, it can become almost overwhelming to try to choose just one. While the choices may be plentiful, it doesn't mean that all of them are good options.
Although the cultural appropriation debate is not new, it remains as relevant as ever regarding Halloween costumes. To anyone unclear about what "cultural appropriation is, Neil Leeuwen of Philosophy Talk describes it as "[the] use or mimicry of artifacts or manners from another culture without permission from any members of that culture." Year after year, Halloween-goers opt for costumes that infringe on cultures they don't care about and don't know anything about. While it isn't always done with ill-intentions, it doesn't make it any more excusable.
Costume shops are often the biggest perpetrators of this problem because their only concern is providing a product and making a sell. While these stores and companies don't take into consideration the disrespect these costumes present to certain cultures, consumers should. It's not the retailer's responsibility to police its customers' decisions and actions. Even though the offensive costumes are available, it doesn't give anyone a pass to wear them without consequence.
In fact, I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm very much guilty of this. Out of ignorance, I thought it might be "cute" to dress up like a sugar skull from the Dia de Los Muertos tradition. I didn't do it as a mockery; I genuinely liked the idea and thought it would be a fun costume. However, I'm not of Hispanic descent, nor do I have any ties to the Dia de Los Muertos holiday. Basically, I had no business making it a part of my costume. There are real history and real cultural significance to the holiday, and I now know that my costume was in poor taste.
No cultural appropriation PSA would be complete without highlight the major infractions that occur every year. From the Native American headdresses to the oversized Sombreros, or any form of Black Face, these costumes just scream, "ignorant!" Dressing up as a "Redneck" or "ghetto" may seem funny, but it actually has hurtful implications towards real people. The punchlines of these costumes pack a punch to the dignity and heritage of actual people.
So, please, don't be that person at the costume party.