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Daily Barometer: Student leaders raise awareness about culturally insensitive Halloween costumes

Posted October 23rd, 2012 by UHDS News

[The Daily Barometer, Oct. 17, 2012] — Halloween is two weeks away, and many students will don makeup and costumes in the spirit of the holiday. According to Community Relation Facilitators and members of cultural centers on campus, the choice of costume should be planned in a way that is considerate of other cultures.

“Halloween gives people the power to pretend they are something they are not,” said Agustin Vega-Peters, ASOSUdirector of multicultural affairs. “What people sometimes forget is that others might see their costume as mocking their cultural heritage.”

Vega-Peters noted, as an example of inconsiderateness, that costumes resembling mariachi members are often oversimplified and portrayed in a way that mocks the Mexican pastime and cultural staple.

Community Relation Facilitators released a video on Monday on their Facebook page titled, “Think before you costume.” The video took an upbeat approach to the issue, embracing the holiday while remaining informative. Community Relation Facilitator Justin McDaniels hosted the video, pointing out appropriate and inappropriate costumes as a way to supply a distinction for the viewer.

Examples of universally acceptable costumes included a gamer, a Beaver fan and a college student. Inappropriate costume ideas included dressing up in stereotypical costumes including a Geisha, an illegal alien, dressing in derivative Native American regalia and wearing blackface.

“These costumes are doing something wrong,” McDaniels said. “[They are] identifying a certain culture or heritage and they are doing it in the wrong way.”

The video included representatives from the Black Cultural Center, Asian and Pacific Cultural Center, Native American Cultural Center and Centro Cultural Cesar Chavez. Each group showed examples of offensive costumes, further explaining how they feel about the costumes and the undertones attached to them.

“The way we dress up matters,” McDaniels concluded. “The way that we can costume ourselves can affect others in a negative way. We want this Halloween and harvest time to be equitable for everyone.”

As mentioned in both the video and by those involved, many people see Halloween and costuming without having any limitations, and while they are able to wear what they like, others may feel offended by culturally insensitive costumes.

“We want to focus and educate about the unspoken oppression that Halloween costumes portray in cultures around the world,” said Tomomi Kurosaki, graduate assistant from the Asian and Pacific Cultural Center. “The purpose of this event is to let others know that sometimes dressing up in clothing representing a culture can be offensive and an inaccurate representation, and we also want to explain what [that] clothing means to us.”

The campaign will feature an event today, sponsored by the Asian Pacific Cultural Center and Community Relation Facilitators titled, “My Culture is NOT a costume.” Alongside educational segments, the event will include festive traditions including caramel apples and mask decorating.

“We want students to have fun this Halloween,” said Teresita Alvarez, University Housing and Dining multicultural resource coordinator. “At the same time, we want them to take a look at some of the costumes that are out there and [see] why they are problematic.”

Read the full article by reporter Jack Lammers.

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