Self Expression or Cultural Appropriation? If It’s the Latter, Just Stay Home

By Aly Fosbury ’21, Opinion Columnist

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Another Halloween has passed, and once again, our nation has proven that we really have no shame when it comes to appropriating racial and cultural stereotypes as costumes. According to, this year’s culturally insensitive costumes included, but certainly aren’t limited to, the “Men’s Arab Sheik Costume,” “Golden Geisha,” “Dia De Los Beauty,” “Dream Catcher,” and “Sexy Shooter Happy Hour.”

We have a long history of appropriating culture and playing heavily on stereotypes within movies, TV shows, music and plays as well as Halloween costumes, but that doesn’t mean we need to keep up with the tradition. I seem to have missed the lesson where people were told dressing up as another race or emphasizing a stereotype of a particular group of people was comedic or creative, because, to me, it just seems useless and thoughtless.

There is nothing cute about wearing a sexy dress with traditional Japanese prints and white face paint. Likewise, putting on Arabic dress and carrying around a fake bomb is not the least bit comedic.

When did Halloween devolve into a battle of who can be more insensitive to marginalized groups? There is no law in the Halloween guidebook that states that along with dressing up as a scantily clad animal at least once, you also need to prey on the stereotype of another race or culture.

Although many people seem to feel as though it is hard to avoid using a culture or race as costume, I have never had a problem throughout my 18 years of existence. I would say it takes a conscious effort not to wear a culturally insensitive costume, but I would be lying. Never in my mind have I thought ‘You know what seems like a really great idea, taking a grotesque stereotype and using it as a costume!’ Dressing up as a “Dream Catcher” girl in a tan dress and loads of feathers atop your head does not mean that you appreciate traditional Native American dress, it publicizes the fact that you clearly have no concept whatsoever of their culture, nor do you respect it.

Of course, there is always a debate when it comes to Halloween costumes, as they are meant to be a form of self-expression and appreciation for a particular person or character. However, there is a clear difference between dressing up as Frida Kahlo, your childhood hero, and dressing up in a sombrero and poncho toting around a fake bottle of tequila. Allowing this to happen year after year speaks to the fact that, in reality, we as a nation are far from overcoming racism and stereotyping because we use one of the most commercialized holidays of the year to exploit that insensitivity and ignorance.

So, for anyone considering wearing any culturally insensitive costumes for Halloween anytime soon, here is a simple alternative: just stay home.