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We should skip cultural costumes for Halloween

Certain clothes have meaning and shouldn't be borrowed for a night


Halloween, the greatest fall holiday, is fast approaching. It’s one of my favorite days of the year.

How many others involve candy and costumes and are nondenominational? And though my costumes are, without fail, spectacularly uncreative (I was a cat last year and a cheerleader the year before), I love dressing up. And, thanks to Riverdale’s Halloween-themed homecoming dance, I always have an excuse.Patricia Torvalds

An excuse to dress up, however, is not an excuse to wear certain costumes. Using Halloween as a chance to dress as a Native American or any other culture is called cultural appropriation — and it’s wrong.

It’s not wrong just because the outfit offends some people, although that’s a good thing to keep in mind. It’s wrong because regardless of how culturally accurate a costume is, these costumes detract from the idea that cultures are real and diverse.

Native American culture has a history that is not frequently in the spotlight and is often presented in a stereotypical or sexualized manner. Because of this, Native American costumes look more or less the same. This perpetuates the idea that Native American culture is homogenized and disturbingly similar to the Disney film “Pocahontas,” which is inaccurate. The rich, historical background surrounding the different tribes is ignored in the marketing of the “Sexy Navajo Indian” costume.

The same goes for Gypsy costumes that objectify and sexualize the Roma culture. They reduce the culture to a costume, worn for one day of the year and discarded.

It ignores the fact that articles of clothing often have traditions and beliefs attached to them. Roma culture requires women to hide their legs, so a long, modest skirt is the garment of choice.

Native American headdresses are sacred, and only the most powerful of a tribe may wear them. When worn by the people who once profited from the land taken from Native American people, it is insulting to them.

But maybe your costume is completely accurate. Maybe you’re even part or fully Native American. These seem like good reasons to wear the costume. However, wearing Native American clothes as a costume for Halloween is what makes this an instance of cultural appropriation. The fact that Native American attire, however tasteful or accurate, is considered something you put on for fun on one day of the year — a day that was not, in fact, celebrated in Native American cultures — is wrong, and it’s racist.

In short, you should avoid donning a Native American costume or a costume modeled on any culture you do not represent on a regular basis. There are lots of costumes out there. I think it’s time we start choosing those that don’t reduce cultures to sexy articles of clothing.

Patricia Torvalds is a junior at Riverdale High School, and she writes a monthly column for the Review. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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