Halloween: Exerting white privilege

October 24, 2017


Growing​ ​up​ ​a privileged​ white​​ ​female​ ​in ​a​ ​predominantly​ ​​white, ​small​ ​​town​ ​with​ ​even smaller-​​minded​ ​inhabitants, ​cultural​ appropriation​ ​was​ an​ ​altogether​ ​foreign​ ​concept ​ ​to ​ ​me.​

​In fact, ​I ​hadn’t ​even​ ​heard ​that​ ​​term,​term, ​ ​nor​ ​had ​I​ ​bothered​ ​to​​ learn​ what​ ​it ​meant​ ​until​ ​my​ freshman​ year​ of​ ​​college. ​Cultural ​​appropriation ​refers​ to​ “borrowing” ​​aspects ​of​ a​ ​different​ culture​ ​and implementing​ them​ ​into​ ​your ​own​ ​​daily​ ​life; this​ ​can​ ​include, ​for​ ​example, ​white​ ​​people​ putting​ cornrows​ in​ ​their​ ​​hair or​ ​wearing​ ​a​ ​dashiki. ​

Cultural​ ​appropriation​ is​ ​​a​ ​large​ ​concern​ ​for​ ​many reasons, ​​​the​ most​ problematic​ ​being​ that​ ​it cheapens ​another’s​ ​way​ of​ ​life. It​ ​exploits​ indigenous, ​ ​African, ​ ​Hispanic,​ ​and​ ​many​ ​other ​cultures​ ​and ​​their ​heritage​ ​by​ ​allowing ​others​ ​to reap​ ​the​ ​benefits​ ​of ​them ​(especially​ when​​ ​it​ comes​ ​​to​ ​fashion)​ ​when ​nothing ​was​ ​done​ to​ ​earn​ these benefits ​​and​ ​when​ ​little ​​knowledge ​is ​known​ ​about​ ​the​ ​history​ behind​ the​ ​​clothes​ and​ hairtstyleshairstyles​ ​being​ ​worn​ ​or​ the​ ​music​ ​being​ ​listened​ ​to. ​ ​

My​ mother​ ​had ​allowed​ ​me ​to​ ​dress​ as​ ​a​ Native​ ​​American for​ Halloween​ ​as​ ​a​ child​ without​ ​being aware​ ​ ​of ​what​ she​ ​was​ ​doing; ​​allowing​ ​me​ ​to ​​masquerade​ ​around​ ​on​ ​a ​quest ​​for candy​ ​while​ ​making​ ​a​ ​mockery​ ​of​ ​an​ entire​ ​heritage, ​essentially​ ​spitting​ ​on​ another​ ​group’s​ entire​ way​ ​of​ ​life.

​While​ ​my​ ​mother​ ​has ​​done​ ​right​ ​by​ ​me​ ​in​ many​ ​other​ ​regards, I ​​think​ most​ ​of​ us​ have​ been​ ​guilty​ ​of​ ​this​ ​ sort​ ​​of​ thing​ ​at​ ​one​ ​point​ in​ ​our​ ​lives; ​I​ ​know​​ ​I​ ​have. ​But​ ​it​ ​​is important, especially​ ​as​ ​​a​ person​ ​born​ ​​with​ a​ ​​certain​ degree​ ​​of ​​privilege ​​afforded​ ​just ​​by ​skin​ ​tone, to​ recognize​ ​that​ ​​by​ ​simply​ looking​ ​​the ​way​ ​that​ ​​you ​do​ affords​ ​you ​many ​luxuries​ ​that​ other​ people​ ​don’t​ have.

And​ ​​it​ ​is ​even​ ​more​ ​important​ ​to​ ​recognize​ ​that​ learning​ ​about​ ​another culture, ​showing​ ​​genuine​ ​interest​ ​in​ ​its​ ​values ​​and​ ​liking​ ​the​ ​look​ of​ ​an​​ ​Indian ​bellydancingbelly dancing costume​ because​ ​it’s​​ “sparkly​ ​and​ ​ cute”​ ​is​ not​ ​the ​same​ thing.​

This is Bbecause,​ at​ the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the​ day,​ ​no​ ​matter​ ​how ​​long​ you​ ​shop​ ​or​ ​how ​ many​ ​ ​stores​ you​ ​visit, ​you​ will ​​never​ ​find​ a​ ​plastic​ bag​ ​​hanging​ ​on​ ​a​ ​rack​ ​at​ ​Party​ ​City​ ​labeled​ ​“White ​ ​Person.” ​

​Because you,​ ​as​ ​a​ ​white​ ​person,​ ​have​ ​the​ ​luxury​ ​of​ going​ ​​to​ ​the​ ​Clerk​ ​of​ ​Courts ​and​​ finding​​ ​extensive volumes​ ​of ​your​ ​family’s ​history:​ ​where ​​they​ ​came​ ​from, ​​in​ what​ ​​year​ ​they came​ ​and​ ​on​ ​which boat, ​ ​who​ ​they ​ ​married,​ or​ ​the​ ​origins ​of​ ​your​ ​own​ ​last​ ​name.​ ​

So​ ​many​ ​​other​ groups​ ​of ​people don’t​ have​ ​that​ ​luxury;​ ​they​ ​have​ ​no​ ​way ​of knowing​ ​any​ ​of​ ​this​ ​information​ ​because​ ​their ​​entire cultures​ were​ ​​stripped​ ​away​ ​from​ ​them​ ​in​ ​the​ ​name​ ​of​ ​colonization,​ ​imperialism,​ ethnocentrism ​and genocide. ​

​All​ ​that​ ​many​ people​ ​of​ color​ have ​​to​ ​bond​ ​with​ ​each​ ​other ​is​ ​that they​ ​are​ ​all​ ​of that​ ​one​ ​race;​ ​they​ ​do​ ​not​ ​have​ the​ ​​luxury ​of​ ​​tracing ​family ​members​ ​back​ ​to ​one​ ​specific Hispanic​ ​or​ ​African​ ​country​ ​or​ ​indigenous ​tribe because​ ​their​ ​livelihoods​ ​were ​uprooted​ ​​and systematically​ ​slaughtered.​

Take​ ​two​ ​seconds​ ​to​ ​ponder​ ​how ​disrespected​ ​you​ ​would​ ​feel​ ​if​ ​you were​ an​ ​indigenous​ ​person and​ ​a​ ​sacred​ ​piece ​ ​of ​ ​ceremonial​ ​dress​ ​was​ ​mass​ ​produced​ ​in ​a​ factory​ ​somewhere ​and ​then​ ​carelessly​ ​shoved ​​into​ ​a​ plastic​ ​bag​ ​to​ ​be​ ​purchased​ by​ ​a​ person​ who​ ​most ​​likely ​​has ​no​ ​​clue​ ​what​ ​this​ ​article​ ​means ​​to​ ​the ​​indigenous ​community.​

I​ ​can​ guarantee​ ​you​ ​that ​​people​ ​of​ ​Indian​ ​descent​ do​ ​not​ ​​wear ​their​ ​ceremonial ​​dress​ simply​ ​because​ ​of​ how​ ​seemingly​ ​cute ​​and​ sparkly​ ​it​ is.​ So ​many​ ​groups​ ​of​ ​individuals​ ​in​ ​this ​country,​ ​who​ ​built​ ​this ​ country​ ​ out​ ​ ​of ​ backbreaking​ physical ​ labor,​ ​, ​do​ not​ ​ ​often​ ​receive​ the​ ​credit​ ​ ​or​ ​acknowledgement ​ they​ deserve​ ​ for​ ​ doing​ ​ so.​

They​ were​ ​savagely​ ​beaten, ​stolen​ from,​ ​physically​ ​and​ resourcefully​ ​exploited ​and​ ​even​ brought ​ ​overseas​ ​as​ ​cargo.​ ​Their ​​heritage​ and​ ​culture​ ​was ​dehumanized​ ​for ​years and ​even​ centuries​ in​ ​some cases..​ ​

Cultural​ ​appropriation​ ​is​ ​not ​specifically​ ​​related​ ​to​ ​a ​person’s​ ​exploitation​ ​of​ another ​race;​ ​individuals ​of ​ ​another​ ​religion,​ socioeconomic​ ​ ​background​ ​or​ ​sexual orientation​ can​ ​be ​​exploited​ ​and​ dehumanized​ ​ ​in ​many​ ​of​ ​the​ ​same​ ​ways ​​as ​can​ ​racial​ ​or​ ​ethnic ​exploitation.

Just ​​because ​you​ ​personally​ ​may​ ​not​ ​​feel​ ​the​ ​sting ​of ​​this​ sort​ ​of​ ​​oppression ​does ​not ​​mean​ ​that ​it doesn’t ​exist. If ​you ​are​ ​not​ ​a​ ​Hispanic​ person,​ ​do​ ​​not ​dress ​up​ ​​today​ ​as​ a​ ​​sugar​ skull​ ​or​ ​wear​ a​ ​ ​sombrero.​

If​ you​ are​ ​not​ ​black​ ​or​ ​African-​American,​ ​do​ ​not ​​braid​ ​your​ ​hair​ ​and​ ​strut ​around​​ ​in​ ​a dashiki.​ ​

​If you​ ​are​ ​not​ ​a​ ​transgender ​person​ ​or​ ​a​ ​​member​ of​ ​​the ​LGBTQ​ ​community,​ do​ ​not​ ​pose​ ​as​ ​any​ member​ of​ ​this​ ​group​ ​or ​refer ​to​ ​them​ ​with​ ​derogatory​ ​slander.​ ​​

If​ ​you ​are​ ​not​ ​an​ ​indigenous person,​ ​do​ ​not​ ​tie​ ​feathers​ ​in​ ​your​ ​hair,​ ​do​ ​not ​wear​ ​a​ ​headdress​ ​and​ ​do ​ ​not​ ​paint​ ​your​ ​face​ in​ ​a​ tribal​ fashion.​ ​

If​ ​​you​ are​ ​not​ ​​a ​​Jewish​ ​or ​Muslim​ ​person,​ ​​do ​​not ​wear ​a​ ​hijab​ ​​or ​any​ ​​other religious ​dress.​

​This​ ​is​ ​not​ ​okay. ​It​ ​is​ ​not​ ​respectful. ​​It​ ​is​ not​ ​cute.​ ​

​It​ ​is​ ​the​ ​epitome​ ​of​ ignorance​ and​ asserting​ ​a​ ​privilege​ ​that​ ​so​ ​many​ ​oppressed​ ​individuals ​do​ ​not​ ​have.​

​You​ ​are​ ​making​ ​a mockery​ of​ ​​important​ ​and​ ​sacred​ ​dress,​ you​ ​are​ ​perpetrating​ ​further​ ​ignorance​ ​and​ ​you ​are cheapening​ ​the experiences​ ​of​ ​so ​​many ​people​ ​​who ​have​ ​spent ​years​ ​​in​ a​ ​​state​ ​of​ ​systematic oppression, peopleand​ who​ ​duly ​paid​ ​for​ ​their​ ​right​ ​to​ ​​wear​ ​these​ hairstyles​ ​​and​ ​clothing​ ​with​ their​ blood, ​sweat​ ​and​ ​tears.​ ​​ ​

Don’t​ ​use​ ​Halloween ​as​ ​a​ ​platform​ ​to​ ​exert​ ​a​ ​privilege​ ​that ​​so ​many​ individuals​ ​are​ ​made​ ​to ​​go ​without.

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