When I was younger for Halloween I was dressed up as a “China Doll,” which is a name that my grandpa still calls me today. Disclaimer: I’m Filipino, not Chinese.
I now understand how that costume is offensive. It may have been something my parents overlooked at the time, but with the younger generations moving away from a traditionally racist mindset, costumes that are based on a culture that is not yours are not okay.
There’s a difference between culture appropriation and culture appreciation, and Halloween is not a day of cultural appreciation.
Truthfully I wouldn’t have thought much about it, but the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement this year has led me to reflect on my genetic makeup and ancestral upbringing. Three out of four of my grandparents are immigrants and are now citizens. They struggled and faced many obstacles so I can have a good life.
So, seeing people dress up as cultures that they are not a part of really hurts. Everyone has different struggles, but in the United States it’s apparent that Black, Indigenous and people of color are systematically set up to struggle more.
When you dress up as a reflection of a culture that isn’t yours, it’s disrespectful because you’ll never share the lived experiences of that marginalized group.
Appropriation is racist because it perpetuates stereotypes that diminish the rich history, culture and struggle of a community. For example, dressing up as a “Mexican” but wearing a sombrero, holding maracas and wearing a colorful poncho is a minimized version of Latinx culture. Wearing that costume solidifies the lack of understanding about the continued violence and trauma happening at the border, and it confirms that Latinx history is not properly taught in standard history classes.
It minimizes the struggles my grandma had to face after crossing the Mexican border.
There’s so much you can be in today’s age that isn’t problematic. Here are some easy non-problematic costumes to dress up in.
Dressing for a decade is just incorporating the fashion of that time. Super easy decades are the ‘60s and ‘70s; all you need is tie-dye, flared jeans and some round glasses.
Dress up as something mythical or fictional, like a unicorn, fairy, vampire or alien. Being something fictional can even include characters from video games, cartoons and books.
Dressing up as something that isn’t real is probably the easiest way to avoid being canceled.
Some cute group costumes I’ve seen are people dressing up as fruits, animals and food brands.
If you want to be a fruit, just get a shirt that matches the color of the fruit of your choice, paint seeds on it, and you’re all set.
Animals are simple: get an animal headband and tail, and paint your face to look like the animal of your choice.
Food brands I see the most are M&M’s and Skittles. All you need to do is get a colored shirt of your choice and paint an S or M on the shirt.
Those are just a few ideas of costumes that will be a success. At the end of the day, Halloween is just about having fun while getting dressed up. You don’t have to be anything specific, you can just wear something you wouldn’t normally wear.
If you run out of ideas, there’s always the option of being something spooky, or just dressing festive in black and orange for Halloween.