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Our Culture is not Your Costume

My culture is not a costume. My culture is not a costume. My culture is not a costume. In a school community where there is a lot of emphasis on not openly being offensive, people turn to micro-aggressions and passive aggression. We would like to remind everyone in the CPS community that their costumes should represent the type of community that CPS ideally wants. While there are many reasons why wearing a socially offensive costume is wrong, a large moral reason is you are perpetuating the misrepresentation of a culture.

A costume that people often overlook as offensive is the “Native American” costume, where someone wears a generic buckskin dress and a feather headband or headdress with moccasins. Generalizing the many different tribes that were present in America before that fateful day in 1492 is socially incorrect because the people that lived in the Americas were very diverse groups of people who should be represented as such. Trying to put thousands of years of a culture that was eventually taken advantage of and destroyed isn’t something that should be taken lightly.

Do not forget that “Native American” classifies as all indigenous peoples throughout North and South America. “Mexican” costumes, for example serapes, are taking traditional clothing of Native Mexican Indians and turning it into a costume. During the Colonial period, the Spanish oppressed the Natives and attempted to change their culture, whitewashing them to become more European. The Natives resisted and held onto some of their pre-European culture, with serapes being a part of the native culture that survived. Wearing a serape is a way for a Mexican to reclaim and hold onto their native culture, something the Spanish tried so hard to take away from them in order to oppress and conquer. Wearing a serape this Halloween, or any Native American themed costumes, is degrading the struggle that millions of indigenous people faced, and continue to face, against their oppression.

Blackface, yellowface, redface, and brownface are an aspect of costumes that is NEVER okay. Painting your face a color other than the color that you were born isn’t ok, because you can’t pretend to be a different race when it’s convenient for you. The hardships that come with being a person of color are so much more than just the color of your skin. Culturally insensitive facepaint includes wearing Day of the Dead skull, or calavera, makeup. Day of the Dead is a holiday that celebrates and honors relatives that have passed away, a tradition that dates back to the Aztecs. Dressing as a calavera is traditionally a way to celebrate your deceased loved ones, so you can see how being a calavera as a Halloween costume can be insensitive or offensive.

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