The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

It’s my culture, not a costume


It seems like October always flies right by, what with the anticipation for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

So now we’re here, just a few days before Halloween, and maybe you are scrambling looking for that perfect costume to wear to that party at the end of the week.

 Here is my advice to those in that unfortunate position: don’t let your panic overthrow your common sense. Pick a costume that doesn’t fall into some type of outdated racial stereotype. 

Now, let me be clear; I have always wanted to be Pocahontas for Halloween for as long as I can remember. 

However, I am one of those people who can never seem to get the motivation to actually go out and buy or create a costume, so I usually just end up in last year’s witch hat or my friend’s cat ears. 

I’ve realized recently that perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing. 

This is because I recently had a discussion in one of my classes regarding racial stereotypes as costumes.

At first I wasn’t so affected by it because I couldn’t recall having ever seen anyone wear a racial stereotype as a costume. As I made the conclusion that it wasn’t at all a big deal, I realized that maybe me and my thinking were part of the problem. 

What I then remembered is how many times I’ve seen a guy walking around in a Sombrero and poncho for Halloween, or the dozens of “Sexy Indian Princess” costumes I’ve noticed on the racks in Party City. 

They’re there, and they always have been. We just tend to overlook them because they might not necessarily be offensive to us and our own culture. 

To be perfectly honest, I do find myself somewhat offended by the six-foot white guy playing maracas and wearing a mustache because that’s turning my culture into a caricature. 

Our generation likes to think of ourselves as so modern in our ways of thinking, but I think that’s just naivety and cockiness on our part. 

The fact that we don’t always take the time to consider how someone else may feel about their culture being used for a gimmick is incredibly ignorant.   

To give credit to the people I know, I’m glad to admit that I’ve never seen anyone in blackface or Taliban clothing on Halloween. 

No, we can leave that to the celebrities. Chris Brown donned an Osama Bin Laden get-up last Halloween and received a lot of a criticism for it.

 Last weekend, Julianne Hough stepped out to a Halloween party in blackface as the character “Crazy Eyes” from Orange is the New Black. While Brown dressing as Bin Laden was in poor taste, and Hough was a case of a fan going a little too far, both were pretty offensive. 

I understand that when someone dresses up as a character that just so happens to be a different race than them it’s not out of maliciousness at all. “Crazy Eyes”: case and point. 

After all, aside from the candy and the parties, Halloween is about getting to dress up and be someone or something else for a night. That’s the fun of it; that’s what it’s all about. 

I think that it becomes a problem when someone is careless about how they portray that character and they don’t put considerable thought into how it will affect others. There’s always a line you just shouldn’t cross out of  basic decency and respect. 

Do I still want to be Pocahontas one day? Well, she is my favorite Disney character. However, I’d definitely think twice about the way I portrayed her. I’m not going to carry around a tomahawk or stick a bunch of feathers in my hair. 

Ultimately, you don’t want to turn someone’s culture into a gimmick because you think you look cute or funny in the costume.

Donate to Sonoma State Star

Your donation will support the student journalists of Sonoma State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Sonoma State Star