Halloween is one of the most highly anticipated holidays of the year. For one night, you can celebrate this spooky holiday by dressing up to be anything they want. It’s a great way to show off your creativity and impress your friends, but it’s all fun and games until someone’s crossed a line. In pop culture, it has become widely acceptable for people to pick and choose cultures’ styles and tweak them to fit their own desires. In reality, people must realize that the culture they are personalizing represents a way of life for a certain group of people, and is not just a quirky costume. Therefore, it is very important to be able to distinguish what is funny and what is just outright offensive.
There are many types of poor costume choices, but here are a few examples that you should avoid to keep your Halloween enjoyable and drama-free:
More often than not, people (typically non-Asians) will wear a costume like this without knowing the cultural significance behind the clothes. For instance, the rice hat is called a “Non la” and originates from Vietnam. Legend says that there was once a giant goddess who protected humankind from heavy rains with a cone-shaped bamboo hat. When she left, mankind honored her by recreating her hat and wearing it to work on the rice fields. Also, kimonos were created during the Heian period in Japan, and are typically worn for special occasions such as weddings and festivals. The point is, if you choose to “be an Asian” this Halloween (which I highly discourage), remember that you are appropriating parts of a lifestyle that only you find appealing.
Cinco de Mayo
Dressing up in traditional Mexican outfits is totally acceptable if you are going to attend a real fiesta. However, it is a completely different circumstance if you are just partying at a “Mexican-themed” bash this Halloween. The difference is that a fiesta is an event that celebrates heritage, while the latter is most likely just a slapdash party revolving around Mexican stereotypes. Again, be mindful of the context in which you are dressing up to represent a culture.
The Native American headdress is a prime example of how the misuse of a culture’s heritage can be deeply offensive and detrimental. In this culture, headdresses were given to only the noblest warriors of a tribe and were customized to represent the individual who wore it. Each feather symbolized a single, heroic feat that the warrior did, which was determined by the leaders of their respected tribe. In general, these headdresses have heavy spiritual significance in Native American culture; if you do not actively practice the customs of their lifestyle and yet wear one of these warbonnets, it is considered as a very rude and insensitive gesture.