Halloween: What is Culturally Appropriate vs. Inappropriate?

Every year people dress up for Halloween but do they always know the cultural significance behind each costume?

MOORHEAD, Minn. — In today’s world, people have gotten creative with their costumes on Halloween but many say there is still a fine line between being appropriate and what should be considered inappropriate.

A student panel at MSUM is discussing these issues.

Every year, people dress up for Halloween but do they always know the cultural significance behind each costume?

“You might wear something that you don’t think much of but you have no idea the kind of cultural significance that it does have,” said Maddie Frueh, a sophomore at MSUM.

A panel at MSUM is teaching students that there is more of a meaning behind the costume than just fashion or fun.

“If you feel like it might not be appropriate then just don’t do it,” said Mariah Schroeder, a sophomore at MSUM.

They say defining cultural appropriation is the first step to understanding.

“We’ll send them away with not just the perspective of the students on the panel today but also with some tips on how to think about when they see a piece of fashion or when they think of a Halloween costume, should I do this or should I not and what might the impact be on the actual people from that culture,” said Dana Bisignani, the MSUM Women’s Center Coordinator.

Panelists say cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture takes or uses elements, symbols or practices of another culture without consent or understanding.

“You can’t just do it for a night and just feel satisfied with that when you aren’t going to go out of your way to help the people that have to go through it daily,” said Glory Ames, a member of the American Indian Students Association.

Many of the student panelists say there is a difference between having positive inspiration and being culturally insensitive. They say educating yourself is key.

“The biggest thing I realized was the line between being culturally appropriate and inappropriate isn’t always black and white so it’s important to just really just know the intention and purpose behind what you’re doing and why you’re doing it,” said Frueh.

Organizers say many of the big fashion retailers and companies create some culturally insensitive apparel and accessories.

“It’s on us to decide whether or not we’re going to put money into those trends or not, if we’re going to demand better,” said Bisignani

One of the biggest messages the panel is sending is to educate those uninformed, not intimidate.

The panel says that if you are interested in purchasing items that have a cultural context, try purchasing them from someone who knows their meaning and background.

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