The Center for Black Studies discusses culturally appropriate Halloween costumes


The Center for Black Studies discusses culturally appropriate Halloween costumes

By Kierra Frazier

DeKALB — The Center for Black Studies held a costume party Friday to start a conversation about cultural appropriation and appropriate Halloween costumes.

The discussion was aimed to bring understanding to the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.  Organizations like QTPOC [Queer and Trans People of Color] and BMI [Black Male Initiative] attended the event as well.

Graduate Research Assistant Bettie Mattison has been wanting to discuss the topic and felt like right now was the best time to do it.

“Halloween is coming up and we wanted to make sure people were being respectful towards others on campus,” Mattison said.

Rispofer Carter, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center staff assistant, and Mattison both said they came up with the event because they know people tend to wear offensive costumes they might not understand.

“I wanted to give an opportunity for the people that wanted to be educated and didn’t understand,” Carter said. “I was a CA for a couple of years, and students I had were wearing costumes and hosting parties that weren’t okay, because they belonged to a culture.”

The event started off by going over the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.

“Cultural appropriation is when you’re adopting someone else’s culture for something that’s trendy,” Mattison said. “For example Halloween costumes or the clothing worn at Coachella are most likely being worn for fashion rather than appreciation.”

Mattison and Carter talked about examples of acceptable costumes like zombies, skeletons or Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad, as well as what types of costumes fall under cultural appropriation, such as Native American princesses or wearing a Mexican Serape and sombrero.

Carter said students can show appreciation for a culture without dressing up and appropriating it.

“You can learn more about that culture and create flyers or make a bulletin board to show your appreciation,” Carter said. “You could even donate to organizations of that culture instead of dressing up and taking from a culture’s historical significance.”

Joseph Flynn, Center for Black Studies associate director, said he was really excited for this event because it seems like every year somebody in the country forgets to be aware of what they’re dressing up as.

“People get caught up in their own worlds and aren’t ever really sure or understanding of this much deeper history, like the Megyn Kelly story trending today,” Flynn said. “This then causes people to do very trivial things that have great consequences.”

Flynn said that he understands why people don’t think it’s a big deal, but what they need to realize is the history behind their costume and what it really means.

Flynn then played videos to students at the end of the event about the history of blackface to show why it has a negative impact today.

Senior psychology major Sara Bahaji said events like these are a good way to spread awareness.

“A lot of people just aren’t aware of the things that they do are sometimes harmful to other cultures,” Bahaji said. “Even if someone is aware, coming here could give them ideas of how to tell other people about why certain halloween costumes are inappropriate.”