[dropcap]H[/dropcap]alloween is supposed to be disturbing: Dark gloomy ghosts and theme park horror nights. Shrill screams along with really bad parties and poorly made costumes, but are those the only things that make you cringe?
For many Halloween is a time where red-lines, if there are any, are disregarded. Political correctness is never a factor. The reason provided is that other races and cultures, can dress up like “us.” But the very presence of an “us” that decides that it is okay to mimic and parody other cultures raises many questions. Why do marginalized groups reject this cultural appropriation in the first place? Who decides whether something is a cultural exchange or cultural appropriation?
This Halloween, a male student in my sister’s high school came to class covered in a head-scarf.
By this simple action, a girl who wears the scarf as a symbol of her identity, became reduced to an idea. This boy’s choice turned her into an idea, a caricature to be re-invented, a “thing” to be reproduced meaninglessly, with no understanding of her individuality.
The problem with some people’s understanding of Halloween is that people claim things that do not belong to them. This is even more troubling in light of power dynamics: More powerful and privileged groups mimic and appropriate from “other”, less powerful groups, in addition to the privilege the former already have over the latter.
Putting aside being able to take off these costumes and not having to experience the struggles, judgments and hardships that come with being part of the marginalized groups, let us think about the silencing of those groups. Let us think about the alienation they feel when their identity becomes an object of mockery, silliness and one day out of the year it becomes a spectacle. Let us think about the incessant cycle of silencing that continues year-round, when you know that some people will again project their perception of your “otherness” by marking themselves with it, as if drawing your identity on themselves with washable markers.
The problem with Halloween costumes that ignore the people that they’re inspired by is that they erode the sanctity of identities. They dehumanize the people they portray by failing to see them in any other light than an item that can be stolen.
I want members of those marginalized groups to be appreciated for the individuals they are, who unfortunately have to worry about others stealing their identity and then denying they did anything wrong.
featured photo: Twitter