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Halloween is not an excuse to be insensitive to others

Halloween is this month and I wanted to take the time to remind everyone to avoid cultural appropriation. I love Halloween as much as the next person, but it’s important to remember that someone else’s culture should be not be your go-to choice for a Halloween costume.

Photo via Flickr

According to the Cambridge dictionary, cultural appropriation is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”

When dressing up as a certain culture or using a cultural item in your costume, you’re reducing that object to a prop and treating it like something you can put on and take off. You’re ignoring its cultural significance, the impact it has on the group that uses it and what it means to the society it belongs to.

Forget that it’s almost Halloween for a second and you’ll realize that people appropriate and/or mistreat cultures every day. One example, though there are many, include blackface. People still use blackface to mock, ridicule or “put on a costume” that’s really just someone dressing outside of their own race.

A recent example of this is Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada. It came to light a few weeks ago that he used blackface when he was 29 years old. To dress like the character Aladdin, Trudeau significantly darkened every visible part of his body for the costume, rather than wear it with his natural skin color. It was also revealed that he donned blackface two other times.

Does his younger age excuse his actions? Does his apology make it okay? Absolutely not.

To this day, members of all groups are stereotyped, belittled and abused for their beliefs, their sexual orientation, their race and almost any other reason you can think of. Using other people’s life experiences as a “fun” costume discredits everything they’ve been through and reduces their lives into a parody.

Unlike Trudeau and so many others who appropriate a culture or race, others can’t just wash the paint off their skin, take off their object of religious significance or remove any other evidence of who they are physically.

The incident with Trudeau should be a teachable moment for everyone. Never dress outside of your own race, don’t use others’ objects of cultural significance and don’t plead ignorance when you’re called out on it.

So, this Halloween and every other day of the year, remember to avoid cultural appropriation. There are so many costumes out there that you can wear that will not culturally, religiously or racially offend another member of the human race.

Rhania Kamel is a a senior communication major from Jersey City, N.J. She can be reached at

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