Multicultural News

Avoiding cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As cultural awareness grows, more people are choosing to celebrate our differences.

But as we get closer to Halloween, you’re reminded not to reduce culture to a costume.

So often around Halloween you’ll see Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Black people turned into caricatures of their culture. While it may seem a fun or a cool way to recognize another group of people, chances are it’s coming across offensive.

Candy and costumes are what helps make Halloween what it is, and the fun it brings is great, but not when it delves into cultural appropriation.

“People think that they are just having fun but it’s marking an entire race of people and it’s again reducing us to this one type of stereotype that’s fixed in time,” said Carolina Castorena-Santana with the American Indian Center of Indiana.

Santana is a Native American and represents the center at 3737 N. Meridian St.

It’s disheartening to see the rich native culture reduced to caricature. “Even worse are the sexualize versions, which is more common as ‘Pocha-hottie.’ So it’s like the sexualized version of a Native woman,” said Castorena-Santana.

She said Native women have the highest rates of sexual assault, and those types of costumes feed into a growing problem of missing and murdered indigenous women.

“We’re a Culture Not a Costume” was a poster campaign started by Ohio University. It has helped spread the message, but Nopal Cultural representative Eddie Calaca said more needs to be done. Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is another Hispanic cultural holiday that’s often culturally appropriated.

“It is a tradition. It is a cultural celebration for community. And it is not to be taken as a theme party,” Calaca said.

Day of the Dead is not a Halloween spinoff of Halloween, and the Nopal Cultural representative says the Mexican holiday shouldn’t be used as a marketing tool to make money. It’s an indigenous holiday with roots in Catholicism.

“Everyone is free to celebrate whatever tradition they want to celebrate but sometimes, if you’re going to celebrate, make it into a celebration not into a party.”

If you’re interesting in finding out more about Day of the Dead, Nopal Cultural and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is doing a vie day virtual event starting Oct. 28.