364 days out of the year, I wake up and drag myself out of bed. Throw on some clothes. Attempt to make my face look a little less sleepy before tossing my bag over my shoulder and heading to breakfast.
But one day out of the 365 (now two? three? four? College is different), this routine changes. I can become something entirely different. I am no longer Corinne. I am an Olympian. I am Barbie. I am a box of Nerds.
Halloween allows you to be someone you’re not, and it’s a thrilling prospect. For one night, through changing your outward appearance, you can embody someone or something else. But it becomes a dangerous prospect when, for a few hours, you use a person’s lived experience as a costume.
Talk of cultural appropriation typically spikes around Halloween, only potentially rivaled by festival season, yet, year after year, it continues to be an issue.
Whether it be a “Native American Beauty” costume or a dreadlocks wig, the marginalized person you’re becoming for the night has a lived experience you most likely have never, and will never, experience. And, unlike you, this lived experience isn’t something that person can take off and throw in their laundry basket post trick-or-treating.
Like many college campuses, the Claremont Colleges have experienced their fair share of culturally appropriative costume scandals, including one in 2015 that featured stereotyped “Mexican” costumes worn by two white students.
It cannot be stressed enough that this is disrespectful and unacceptable, especially at an institution of higher learning that touts itself as open-minded and inclusive of all identities.
Given the increasingly divided and tense national climate, this critique of Halloween should extend to not only culturally appropriative costumes, but also those that instill fear amongst marginalized communities.
Dressing up as a person who represents misogyny, racism, and homophobia – which have tangible consequences on the lives of marginalized communities in the U.S. – trivializes the systematic oppression that they face.
In addition, dressing up as a police officer actively evokes the fear associated with police brutality, which has disproportionately affected black and brown communities for centuries.
The lived experiences and privileges of white people lead to an entirely different perception of the police. Therefore, they are responsible for critically thinking about how their wearing a police uniform to a party could make other partygoers uncomfortable.
So, come your first Halloween event this weekend, how do you ensure that your costume is good to go?
The biggest idea to consider is intent versus impact. Take a step outside yourself and personal experience.
Ask yourself, “How may others, particularly marginalized communities both within and outside the 5Cs, interpret your costume?”
Some may read this and decry “liberal snowflake!” I call it having respect and empathy for fellow people, many of whom have experienced systemic discrimination due to their race, gender, and class. Wearing a costume that represents these identities only serves to perpetuate the oppression these people experience.
Halloween is not the time for your misguided attempt at political satire. No costume, whether in jest or not, is worth more than your classmates’ sense of safety. Let’s keep this holiday a fun and safe night (or weekend, or week) for everyone. Think long and hard about your own identity before slipping into a new one for the night.