I don’t know about you, but I love to dress up in costumes. Themed parties and Halloween is what I live for. For Halloween this year, I was a lifeguard and a cheetah; these costumes seem fine, right? Well, as I looked around I saw a girl dressed as Pocahontas and a guy wearing a sombrero with a mustache. I stopped right there and said “what the f*ck”. It’s 2018, why is cultural appropriation still a thing?
There have been many instances of cultural appropriation throughout the years but there are a few times that will always be engraved in my head. The University of Michigan is notorious for throwing racist-themed parties and getting away with it. In 2017, a fraternity called Delta Sigma Pi threw an Egyptian themed party where everyone dressed up as Cleopatra and other historical Egyptian figures. People tend to forget that even though ancient Egyptian times were so long ago, it is not a mythical civilization of the past and Egyptians still exist. The fraternity continued to throw the party even when the school has an Egyptian Student Organization. A year later, a Blackface party was thrown where every white person painted their face black to support #BlackLivesMatter, which is extremely ironic considering that is on another level of racist. Trust me, I am all for supporting #BlackLivesMatter especially with all the racist acts that have been occurring but I would never paint my face black or dress like their culture to prove a point. After both of these instances, the fraternity was kicked off and the people were looked down upon but no repercussions for their actions.
We always hear the stories of the students who take part in these racists acts and the students who witnessed it, but what about the reactions from the people actually of that culture? Buzzfeed brought in Native Americans to try on Indian costumes that are sold in the stores and their reactions are heart breaking. One person said that the accuracy of these costumes on a scale of 1-10 is a -4000, which shows how much we tend to stereotype Native Americans. Most of these costumes are covered in random beads but in the Indian culture, each bead represents something different and not all of their clothes are made out of animal skin. People tend to believe that Native Americans wear the same clothes as they did hundreds of years ago but they are normal people just like any other culture. Native Americans have been misrepresented for years, as people tend to ignore all the horrible and cruel acts that have been done towards them.
There is a very fine line between representing a different culture respectfully and cultural appropriation and most people tend to cross that line. If you are going to represent a culture, take into consideration how people of that culture would feel. Instead of using other people’s cultures as a costume, use your imagination and come up with an outfit that does not bash others or offend people.