Opinion | Halloween is not an opportunity for cultural appropriation

When picking out a Halloween costume it is important to be aware of the costumes cultural context.



Little children trick or treating on Halloween

Yassie Buchanan, Opinions Columnist

Spooky season is an exciting time of the year, everyone looks forward to Halloween and the opportunity to dress up as whatever or whoever you want, however, there is a fine line between having fun and appropriating other cultures with your Halloween costumes.   

Even though this year’s “Halloweekends” are inevitably not going to be as chaotic as they would without a global pandemic, as everyone is looking into who they might want to be, it is important to be culturally conscious of your costume ideas.  

It is often a popular choice to dress up imitating Native American culture with accessories such as headdresses and moccasins. Some people go so far as to claim they are Pocahontas, however, imitating a culture that has long been oppressed is disrespectful.  

According to Citizen Potawatomi Nation, in the 1800s Native Americans were reprimanded for wearing or using artifacts of cultural significance. When people appropriate Indigenous culture for the sake of a Halloween costume it dehumanizes and demeans the oppression this community faces.  

Additionally according to Citizen Potawatomi Nation, items people use for Native American costumes, such as headdresses with feathers attached, hold a lot of traditional significance and honor for Native Americans. It is extremely disrespectful to imitate Native American culture and use these out of context. 

Abigail Buffalo is a sophomore studying human physiology on a  pre-med track at the University of Iowa, she is involved in the LNACC and Dance Marathon on campus and grew up on the Meskwaki settlement here in Iowa. 

When asked about seeing people use Native American costumes for Halloween, she said, “overall it makes me sad that people aren’t educated enough to know that it’s offensive and if they are they don’t care enough to respect the culture. It is hard to know things like headdresses are meant to be earned in Native culture because it is not taught well in schools but there are lots of resources people can use to educate themselves.” 

There are many other cultures that historically have been appropriated in the spirit of Halloween, for example, voodoo culture, Latin American culture, Romanian culture, Indian culture, middle eastern culture and more.   

According to an article done by Bustle, costumes that are easily overlooked like “Ninjas” and anything related to “Día de los Muertos” can be incredibly offensive because the culture behind costumes like these is overlooked and devalued. 

As mentioned in the article, Ninjas in Japan had jobs that are comparable to the CIA. Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that tributes loved ones who have passed, it is not a costume opportunity.   

Additionally costumes that require someone to alter their hair texture or skin tone to mimic the texture of a minority’s skin tone are incredibly offensive. What could be used as a fun costume for one person is a means of oppression for another. 

It is natural to adopt and appreciate aspects of cultures outside of our own but, it is never OK to use these cultures out of their intended contexts or as a mockery. 

A lot of this cultural appropriation comes from a lack of knowledge on the culture however, it is our responsibility to make sure we are being aware and educating ourselves. We should not consistently be relying on marginalized populations to do the job for us. 

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.