Cultural Appropriation: Part II

As students run out to purchase wigs, fangs, and other accessories for costumes this Halloweekend, we at TSL would like to remind the community of what happened on these campuses this time last year. Following the revelry of Halloweekend, a photo circulated in November that led to the resignation of Claremont McKenna College’s then-junior class president. The picture featured a group of students posing in various costumes, two of them donning stereotypically ‘Mexican’ costumes that included sombreros, woven ponchos, and fake mustaches. Almost concurrently, CMCers of Color demanded more institutional support for students of color after CMC Dean of Students Mary Spellman implied in an email that students of color did not fit the “CMC mold.” She later resigned, following demonstrations that insisted she do so. 

The incident sparked a campus-wide discussion on race and the challenges that people of color face at the 5Cs. In solidarity with the Black students at University of Missouri, Ithaca College, and Yale University, Black students and their allies marched in the Black Out Student March as a part of the #MillionStudentMarch national movement. We write this summary of last year's events with great intention, in part because this kind of marginalization and outright racism still persists. Racial oppression is a protracted struggle and it would be a shame if the frivolity of Halloween cultivated in aggressively racist behavior after the lessons learned from last year. For first year students just joining us this semester, consider this a public service announcement. 

On a more specific level, say you walk into a Halloween party, in a costume that makes you feel great—but then you're called out for cultural appropriation. While you might not mean to offend´╝îadopting aspects of a culture that is not your own is harmful because it trivializes the violent history of oppression and colonialism. It expresses an affinity for a culture while marginalizing its people and transforming the oppressed's efforts into something profit profitable. On a more basic level, it also enforces generalizations about entire groups of people and perpetuates racial stereotypes. Please, be mindful of your actions this Halloween.