Guirgis: Cultural appropriation isn't cute

    The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.

    This article will be published in the Opinion section, but I don’t think it even qualifies as an op-ed because the following point shouldn’t be treated as an opinion to begin with:

    Don’t be fucking offensive this Halloween.

    Don’t wear a sombrero. Don’t wear a Rasta cap and fake dreads. I saw that last year, and you looked like shit on top of being offensive and disrespectful. Don’t even think about doing something related to indigenous people. Don’t wear anything labeled “Oriental” on the costume packaging. And don’t put on a long robe and say you’re a desert Arab.

    It galls me to think that we have spent years begging people not to appropriate other cultures for Halloween. For many of us who share the experiences and identities that accompany our status as marginalized people, we face a long-standing identity crisis when trying to marry the culture we were raised in with the culture of the country we call home. So when other people think it’s a #cute #fun time to take this part important of our identity and cheapen it with a polyester, second-rate mockery, it doesn’t help our emotional self-security.

    When this discussion surfaces, the same question always comes up: where is the line between appropriation and appreciation, the latter coming from a place of respect and good intentions? I don’t quite know how to cover the full scope of that question. Perhaps we all have different standards to determine what is appropriate or not when interacting with other cultures and when we allow other people to partake in our own. Actions of respect or otherwise are, after all, perceived differently, depending on who’s actually perceiving it, and analyzing every instance of potential controversy in regards to cultural appropriation makes for a whole other topic of conversation.

    But here’s what I do know about appropriation when applied to Halloween. Halloween is never an excuse to dress up in culturally suggestive outfits and parade around because Halloween costumes are parody by nature. They are an exaggerated reference to an icon or idea, and to parody a culture that isn’t yours - as opposed to simply paying homage - is racist. Simple as that. 

    So that’s my long, academic explanation of Halloween and cultural appropriation - even though I am fully aware that some people won’t care. Part of the audience who will read this are cut from the same cloth as the people who painted racist slurs at Alice Millar Chapel almost three years ago, or the kid who called a girl a “sand n*****” on Tinder this summer, or the concertgoers who laughed at the A&O Blowout disclaimer two weeks ago warning people not to say the N-word if they aren’t black. And even more unfortunately, some of the people who will read this are people who appropriate other cultures while hiding behind their own marginalized identities. Look, at the end of the day, I don’t give a shit who you are or how you identify. If you’re reading this, rolling your eyes, and scrolling through Amazon because you’re just so determined to be a Native Princess™ or whatever this weekend, then you’re a part of the problem.

    Oh, and while I’m on my soapbox: if you’re out this weekend and a song with the N-word comes on, keep your mouth shut.


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