Halloween lets people express themselves, be creative, and even be someone else for a night. However, a line exists between fun and appropriate, particularly when we’re talking about respecting other people’s cultures and appearances. In recent years, you’ve probably heard lots of debates, especially during the month of October, about cultural appropriation and the questions it raises about what is okay and what is definitely not. This Halloween, follow a few basic guidelines to make sure your costumes are sensitive to everyone, and avoid any of the calamities that can follow being racist, appropriative, and insensitive.
Pause before you choose your costume.
When you’re thinking about a potential Halloween costume, take a second to think about whether it’s something possibly controversial. USA Today said that “It's an individual choice, but ask yourself if you would feel comfortable wearing it — or having your child wear it — among people from that culture. Would it feel awkward? Would you expect to be called out? Or would it be well received?”
Taking a few moments and empathizing with people who are members of other cultures can prevent misunderstandings or unintentional racism and insensitivity. Part of being sensitive is paying attention and pausing before making a decision.
Realize that every situation is a little different.
Twitter has been divided recently over whether it’s okay for parents to let their children dress up as characters from Moana. Some users believe that no one should dress up in a costume from a culture that isn’t their own. However, other users claim that Halloween costumes for children, when done tactfully, are celebrations of favorite characters rather than an intentional or unintentional mockery of an entire culture. As adults, we need to evaluate our roles and what the intentions and consequences of our costumes can be.
Keep stereotypes in check.
If your costume magnifies or centers around cultural stereotypes and preconceived notions, try something else instead. Your costume should never mimic another culture, or reinforce negative racial, religious, or sexual stereotypes. You’re definitely allowed to be creative and express yourself, but don’t limit someone else’s beliefs or culture by wearing something insensitive.