NSU students concerned about cultural appropriation
TNE Editor
/ Categories: Feature, Campus

NSU students concerned about cultural appropriation

Published 10/5/18

Omar Ortiz Vega

TNE Writer

With Halloween around the corner, costumes fill the shelfs of shopping centers with options for all ages to choose from. Culture and traditions are a popular choice each year for various people. Costumes like “Hey Amigo Mexican Costume” or “Tribal Temptation Native American Costume” are available at Walmart, but some students believe costumes like these appropriate the culture of the people they are attempting to portray.

“The act of misrepresenting and appropriating cultures is especially insulting and dangerous to people of cultures that have struggled, and continue to struggle, to be understood and respected in society,” said Alison Childress, Tulsa junior. “Costumes of cultures aren’t accurate depictions of cultures because they are not costumes.”

Cultural appropriation is the use and adoption of a minority’s culture by a dominant culture. Using a minority group’s religious or traditional clothing as a costume constitutes cultural appropriation.

“My culture is important to me, so I feel that people should take that seriously,” said Briana Griffin, Muskogee junior. “The people may not mean any harm but the use of them perpetuates the stereotypes they portray.”

In Native American culture, the headdress and the beadwork are something sacred to them. These costumes take sacred parts of someone’s culture and turn it into a cheap prop for the use of people. The costume companies portray Mexican culture as wearing ponchos and sombreros.

“Regalia isn’t a costume, so to attempt to turn it into one perpetuates a misunderstanding of the culture and most often in a way that over sexualizes and fetishizes people of specific ethnic and cultural backgrounds,” said Childress. “This poses danger to people of these backgrounds, notably so to Indigenous women. Indigenous women face higher sexual assault rates than any other ethnicity in the country.”

Students understand that people who dress up in these costumes are likely not doing it to cause a commotion or be insensitive. They are typically just unaware of how it portrays the stereotypes they are using.

“I feel that as a black woman I wouldn't wear a costume that offends another race, specifically because I find it insensitive and disrespectful,” said LeRoicia Penney, Association of Black Collegians president.

Last October, there was a huge backlash towards Disney for releasing a children’s costume for the character Maui from the movie “Moana.” Maui is a Polynesian demigod who accompanies Moana through her journey. The backlash was because the costume portrayed brown face and included Polynesian tribal tattoos. The tribal tattoos are very sacred to the Polynesian people and they felt it was disrespectful to their culture for it to be used as a costume.

In 2013, actress and dancer Julianne Hough was photographed using blackface during a Halloween party. Hough was dressed like African American prison inmate Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren from the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” The dancer faced backlash over her decision to use blackface.

Passionate students believe people should celebrate and respect other cultures by not enforcing stereotypes of that culture. They said that if people are going to dress like someone from another culture, they should be mindful to not disrespect that culture or race.

 


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