Halloween is my mother’s favorite holiday. She loves buying decorations for her hotel lobby, and walking into our house looks like Halloween threw up everywhere.
One of my mom’s favorite costumes that she has ever worn was when she dressed up as Pocahontas in 2011 for a Halloween party.
Did you raise an eyebrow at that sentence? I hope you did.
My mom went as “sexy” Pocahontas. She wore a short light beige skirt similar to a public-school skirt, a brown short sleeve shirt, mid-thigh brown heeled boots and a beaded headband that went around her forehead. She is a light-skinned black woman with brown hair, NOT Native American.
She didn’t know at the time, but my mom was a participant in culture appropriation.
Culture appropriation in Cambridge Dictionary is defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”
Culture appropriation arises when imitation is based on a shallow and offensive stereotype.
An example of culture appropriation is when Kim Kardashian named her shapewear line “Kimono Solutionwear.” A kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that has been around for hundreds of years, yet her line of products had nothing to do kimonos.
She participated in cultural appropriation by taking the word away from any cultural contexts while also ignoring Japanese tradition. She quickly changed the name when she began facing backlash.
Most people never intend to insult another culture when dressing up for Halloween. They just want to have fun.
If a little white girl wants to be Princess Jasmine or Mulan, then that is okay. All she sees is a fierce princess that she wants to be like. She doesn’t know anything else.
My mom dressing up as Pocahontas for a Halloween party didn’t hurt anybody’s feelings because nobody knew. If she had known that it might hurt another person, she would have never worn it.
We need to be more careful when it comes to costumes derived from Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, etc. If you have to question whether or not you should wear something, you probably shouldn’t wear it.
To make it easier on everyone, let’s just name the basics of what you should never wear if you are not going to respect their culture.
- Blackface. I should not have to explain that to anyone.
- Stay away from Native American feathers or anything depicting Native Americans.
- Box braids, dreadlocks or cornrows are a no-go.
- Please do not wear hijabs if you are not going to respect the religion.
Let’s try not to be racist this Halloween. It is a fun holiday, so let’s keep it that way.
By the way, my mom rocked that do-it-yourself Pocahontas costume.