This Halloween, remember that culture is not a costume

Michaela Jarrett
Michaela Jarrett

Halloween is approaching and there is something that we should all be considering when giving parties themes and picking out our costumes.

A popular idea is to dress up as someone from a particular culture.


We have all seen the person dressed up as a “Mexican,” wearing a sombrero and something along the lines of a rug with a hole in it for their head. We’ve all seen “nun” costumes and even “slutty nuns.” This turns a culture and lifestyle into a one-dimensional act to be portrayed for fun.

I ask that this year when picking out your costumes, you refrain from dressing up as a culture. If your costume is based on real people and the idea is to be funny, then don’t wear it. If you are making a joke or playing into a stereotype, then don’t wear it. Most of our assumptions of other cultures are based on inaccuracies anyway.

Think about what and who you are portraying and how you would feel if you came face to face with someone from that culture while wearing your costume. There are campaigns devoted to spreading awareness about this trend, so it is obviously affecting people negatively. Cultural minorities already face much oppression and misunderstanding.

By dressing up as people from cultures other than our own, we are making them into nothing more than an object of our own amusement.

I cringe every Halloween when I see people dressed as other people from a certain culture. I believe that most people do not intentionally do this to harm others. However, this is a good example of when impact matters more than intention. Just because you do not mean to cause harm with your “gypsy” costume for example, does not mean that isn’t the case.

Although I might see that you are not a bad person, others will only see what and who you are portraying.

There are so many things you can dress up as for Halloween. Get creative this year and be something that doesn’t appropriate the culture of other people. The effects can range from not feeding into a stereotype about certain people to not ruining the night of someone you run into that happens to be a part of the culture you are trying to depict.

It is perfectly okay to find a culture fascinating and beautiful. It is quite another thing to dress up as a person from that culture, however respectful or accurate you think you are being. It is definitely a good thing to appreciate and learn about other cultures. I think that we can all agree that Halloween is not the most appropriate time to be “appreciating” a culture by dressing up to portray people from it.

The fact is that this trend lies in a deeper rooted cause that has everything to do with privilege. Taking on the appearance of one’s perception of a culture is only possible if the person doing it is not a part of that culture and they gain from that degradation.This doesn’t mean that people from oppressed groups cannot culturally appropriate. It simply means that there aren’t many people dressing up as white for Halloween, while we consistently see racially and culturally driven costumes.

Michaela Jarrett is a second year Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies student who is going to be a vampire for Halloween this year. Letters and feedback can be sent to