Halloween Happened: Let's Talk About Cultural Appropriation

Halloween Happened: Let's Talk About Cultural Appropriation

Culturally insensitive costumes are still ruining Halloween for plenty of people.
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I was more than excited to experience my first Halloween in college. Halloweekend (as I quickly learned the weekend leading up to Halloween was called) would only be the second weekend that I had gone out to parties, so I was looking forward to the change of pace, and experiencing college in all of its cliché, stereotypical glory.

The night began well enough. My friends and I got ready together with Halloween themed music playing in the background as we slipped into last-minute costumes. Dressed in a way that would make Pinterest proud, we trekked through Lexington to the party we planned to attend. Once there, we danced to the loud music and flashing lights, letting go of the week’s exams, essays, and all-around heaviness. I met up with old friends, and even made some new ones along the way, attempting to enjoy myself and let myself have fun (something that I don’t always do). The party started to break up and my friends and I decided to go to the band party at 3rd year housing, at least to see what it was like (spoiler alert: here’s where things get dramatic).

My friends and I stepped off of the bus and we walked up to the band, planning to dance to the live music in the chilly air. However, before I could start to dance, I bumped into a Native American. Not a real Native American, of course, just someone wearing a costume designed to represent their culture (and not well, might I add). I was struck aback by this interesting costume choice, but I decided to not let it bother me, not to let it ruin my night out. So, I continued to dance until I saw a Mexican pass me. Well, that is to say, someone wearing a sombrero and disturbingly cliché multicolored poncho. I’d love to say this was the last costume that caught my eye that night. However, there were multiple students parading around in culturally insensitive costumes, with the most popular of them clearly being based on the appropriation of Mexican culture (something I am not particularly surprised by, considering Washington and Lee’s Sigma Nu chapter and their offensive Mexican themed party merely weeks earlier).

Yes, I am going to talk about cultural appropriation. Yes, I am going to be that SJW. And yes, I am going to continue to discuss it until people understand that cultures are not costumes. By dressing up as a different culture, you are essentially boiling down the complexities and intricacies of a group of people into a $10 trip to Party City. No longer does Mexican culture represent the thoughts, beliefs, lifestyles, and traditions of a country of people. Instead, Mexican culture becomes dollar store accessories. These costumes are far more caricature, than characteristic of Mexican civilization. The same can be said of the Native American costume. Apparently, there is nothing like the genocide of indigenous peoples and erasure of their cultures that makes people think tan clothing and fake feathers would be the perfect costume to party in.

I find the cultural appropriation represented in these costumes particularly inappropriate considering America’s recent conflicts with these groups. President Trump has, on multiple occasions, shared his anti-Latinx sentiments, especially those concerning Mexicans. I particularly find it inappropriate to be parading around in a costume based on assumptions of Mexican culture when similar assumptions have led to calls for a border wall, the ending of DACA, and all-around xenophobia concerning the Latinx community. With the Dakota pipeline protests having happened only a little more than a year ago, the struggles of Native Americans to be respected in the eyes of the United States and its citizens are still prevalent, and wearing a culturally insensitive costume helps to perpetuate the stereotypes that have stripped many tribes of their political power.

I also find this blatant disrespect to traditionally oppressed cultures particularly inappropriate at a school such as ours. Let’s be honest, the name Washington and Lee University does not exactly appear to promote diversity. Despite Lee’s personal contributions to the school and what some would label as “moral principles,” the man still fought for the destruction of the United States and promoted the creation of the Confederacy. A Confederacy which would undeniably be built on the backs of the forced labor of people of color (namely African Americans). Adding to the discomfort of the school’s name, our school clearly has a diversity problem. Forbes reports that W&L is more than 80 percent white (an irregularity in a country that is only 61 percent white). These problems are magnified when we openly display the appropriation of minority cultures.

Of course, I cannot and do not attempt to speak for any persons of color, nor am I speaking for all white people. I am merely expressing only my own personal concern that cultural appropriative costumes may be interpreted as offensive by the targeted groups. Additionally, this does not mean that all persons of color will be offended by such costumes, in fact, I know multiple who are not offended and multiple who are. However, I believe if we are to truly create a diverse and inclusive community (whether this be at Washington and Lee University or on a larger scale), we must condemn such insensitive practices that mock and alienate the cultures of traditionally oppressed groups.

Also, I wish not to condemn any persons who may have chosen to wear costumes that I classified as inappropriate. I am assuming that no person meant to offend any of the above-mentioned groups. I merely ask that we as a community attempt to be more considerate of our costume choices moving forward.

Cover Image Credit: bustle.com

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PSA: Keep Your Body-Negative Opinions Away From Little Girls This Summer

But our own baggage shouldn't be shoved on to those we surround ourselves with.

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It's officially swimsuit season, y'all.

The temperature is rising, the sun is bright and shining, and a trip to the beach couldn't look more appealing than it does right now. This is the time of year that many of us have been rather impatiently waiting for. It's also the time of year that a lot of us feel our most self-conscious.

I could take the time to remind you that every body is a bikini body. I could type out how everyone is stunning in their own unique way and that no one should feel the need to conform to a certain standard of beauty to feel beautiful, male or female. I could sit here and tell you that the measurement of your waistline is not a reflection of your worth. I completely believe every single one of these things.

Hell, I've shared these exact thoughts more times than I can count. This time around, however, I'm not going to say all these things. Instead, I'm begging you to push your insecurities to the side and fake some confidence in yourself when you're in front of others.

Why?

Because our negative self-image is toxic and contagious and we're spreading this negative thinking on to others.

We're all guilty of this, we're with family or a friend and we make a nasty comment about some aspect of our appearance, not even giving a single thought to the impact our words have on the person with us. You might think that it shouldn't bother them- after all, we're not saying anything bad about them! We're just expressing our feelings about something we dislike about ourselves. While I agree that having conversations about our insecurities and feelings are important for our mental and emotional health, there is a proper and improper way of doing it. An open conversation can leave room for growth, acceptance, understanding, and healing. Making a rude or disheartening remark about yourself is destructive not only to yourself, but it will make the person you are saying these things around question their own self worth or body image by comparing themselves to you.

My little sister thinks she's "fat." She doesn't like how she looks. To use her own words, she thinks she's "too chubby" and that she "looks bad in everything."

She's 12 years old.

Do you want to know why she has this mindset? As her older sister, I failed in leading her by example. There were plenty of times when I was slightly younger, less sure of myself, and far more self-conscious than I am now, that I would look in the mirror and say that I looked too chubby, that my body didn't look good enough, that I wished I could change the size of my legs or stomach.

My little sister had to see the older sibling she looks up to, the big sis she thinks always looks beautiful, say awful and untrue things about herself because her own sense of body image was warped by media, puberty, and comparing herself to others.

My negativity rubbed off onto her and shaped how she looks at herself. I can just imagine her watching me fret over how I look thinking, "If she thinks she's too big, what does that make me?"

It makes me feel sick.

All of us are dealing with our own insecurities. It takes some of us longer than others to view ourselves in a positive, loving light. We're all working on ourselves every day, whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally. But our own baggage shouldn't be shoved on to those we surround ourselves with, our struggles and insecurities should not form into their own burdens.

Work on yourself in private. Speak kindly of yourself in front of others. Let your positivity, real or not, spread to others instead of the bad feelings we have a bad habit of letting loose.

The little girls of the world don't need your or my negative self-image this summer. Another kid doesn't need to feel worthless because we couldn't be a little more loving to ourselves and a lot more conscious of what we say out loud.

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The Struggle of Taking Classes During the Summer

It can put a bit of a damper on summer fun

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To everyone reading: I hope you're having a nice, relaxing summer. Even if you're working I hope you can get a few days off to hang out with friends, go to the beach, and have some nice downtime. Not me. I am currently in the process of completing two four-week long summer classes. I'm taking them now to get ahead for next semester and to keep my overall schedule on track. It certainly isn't fun, but the reminder that it is only four weeks is what really keeps me going. If you are in the same boat as me, you'll relate to this list like no one else can; if you're not taking summer classes, don't let this list scare you, but use it to mentally prepare yourself for any you may have in the future.

1. Studying and homework

The homework isn't too bad with some summer classes just because you don't have time for a lot of intense projects. Still, since the class is so short you have to do some kind of homework pretty much every day. Make a schedule and spread it out so you don't get too behind.

2. Actually going to class

I am in two classes. One meets in person every day from 10 am to 11:45 am. The other is online. Let me be the first to say that getting up for class during the normal semesters is hard enough, but knowing my little brother gets to sleep in while I have to wake up early and go class is a real motivation suppressant.

I will say, though, it's kind of nice being on campus when it's basically empty.

3. No going out...

You'll probably be a little down because you might not be able to really go out at all during the time you're in class. For me, I go to lecture every morning, come home and do homework for that class, then do homework for my online class. I have some free time on the weekends, but I try to use those lecture-free days to study or work on papers.

4. But being super busy

Even though you might not be able to go out like a summer off, you'll be keeping yourself busy with all that super fun homework I mentioned.

5. Stress

Yes, summer classes can be a little stressful and it's pretty much all thanks to how fast-paced they are. Just do what I do: make a homework and project schedule as soon as you can and remind yourself how short it is.

Summer classes are not the worst thing in the world, and if you choose to take one at some point it won't be absolutely horrible. The nice thing about them is it's like ripping off a Band-Aid; it may be a little painful and annoying, but it's over so fast you don't suffer. Pick your class and professor wisely and get down to business; taking the class means you're one step closer to graduation!

So, to anyone else taking a summer class: good luck and you got this!

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