Every year without fail, people dress up as Native Americans, Asian princesses and Mexicans, perpetuating racist stereotypes in the spirit of Halloween. Without exception, these should not be considered, if they are not part of your own culture.
Around the world, each culture has its own set of rituals and traditions that are sacred to the way they live their lives and how they will go into the afterlife. Materials that are used for making headdresses and other outfit components are also sacred and ritualistic.
Culture across the globe is rich and complex, but much of it has been lost to colonialism, imperialism and patriarchy.
Halloween is not an excuse to dress up as a different ethnicity that portrays a cheapened representation of that cultural group.
Recently, a video of Candice Reed, a White high school teacher in Riverside, surfaced and spread across the internet after she wore a Native American garment and accessories to school as a costume.
This video is a prime example of the problem with appropriating cultures through costume and using it as entertainment. The teacher is now on leave and the district has issued an apology to the Indigenous communities.
The outcry of the Indigenous communities to have her fired for this unacceptable behavior, cannot be ignored.
The way that this teacher portrays Native Americans was dehumanizing and problematic.
In a headdress, she chants and hollers across the classroom for her students to memorize trigonometric functions. This vulgar classroom display only perpetuates a racist and largely inaccurate stereotype of how Indigenous peoples look and act during rituals. Not only is it racist, but it is also insensitive to the students in the classroom who are Indigenous.
This is not socially acceptable.
The representation of a Native American by a White person is itself a harmful act because it is dehumanizing, which is the first step in violence towards a person or group. This social issue is fueled by the ease of getting just about anything through a simple click-and-buy process on Amazon Prime. A full Native American outfit is listed for $26.99 with free returns. And I urge you to use the free returns option if you have already purchased this costume.
Read the room. It’s 2021 and lives have been lost at the hands of racism and xenophobia. These racist portrayals and cheap costumes contribute to the systematic oppression of the ethnic groups that see their cultures appropriated.
There is no shortage of costume choices that are problematic and that will raise questions about your moral judgment. Our pop culture modern interpretation of Halloween is based on dressing up as representations of memes, couples costumes, cosplaying as characters from beloved shows and movies and therefore, these are all non-problematic. There are endless options for unoffensive costumes.