Halloween Reminders:  Cultures are not costumes – If you choose to dress up for Halloween, check out these tips for cultural appreciation and respect. 


Ask yourself:

  • Does the actual name on the costume packaging say “tribal”, “exotic” or “traditional”?
  • Does the costume include race-related hair or accessories (e.g. locs, afros, cornrows)?
  • Does the costume make fun of something sacred to another culture? (e.g. Native American headdress, religious symbol)?
  • Does the costume play into racial stereotypes?
  • Does the costume involve makeup that is meant to change your skin tone to mimic that of another race? (e.g. Black face)
  • Is this costume meant to depict a figure or organization that has done harm to marginalized communities? (e.g. ICE, KKK)
  • Does this costume represent a culture that is not my own? Why do I want to wear it?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, we encourage you to consider other options.


Want to learn more?

What is cultural appropriation?

Cultural appropriation can be defined as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.” The customs, practices, ideas being used are usually mocked when used by the original marginalized culture, but becomes “cool,” “trendy,” or “edgy” when done by the oppressors/appropriators (e.g cornrows, sombrero, bindi).

The crux of the issue with appropriation is that it is most likely to be harmful when the community affected has experienced oppression, exploitation, and marginalization or when the object of appropriation is sacred in their culture (e.g. Native headdress, hijab), (Scafidi, 2012).

What is cultural appreciation?

Cultural appreciation is honoring and respecting another culture and its practices, to gain knowledge and understanding. We enhance our appreciation by learning the histories of oppression and marginalization surrounding the customs, practices, ideas, and consider our actions in relation to this history. As individuals, we can affirm cultures by recognizing appropriation, speaking up, and not wearing a culture as a costume.

See our sources and additional articles here.

If you see it, report it!

In the event, you witness an incident that negatively target, intimidates, or threatens a person or group due to race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, physical, mental, and intellectual disabilities, as well as past/present history of mental disorders, you may report the incident via the bias-incident protocol.