Cultural appropriation: 50 shades of done with y'all's nonsenseBy Sehar Ezez | 11/05/2015 10:04am
Another Halloween has come and gone, along with yet another array of offensive costumes. l lack words for grown men who are dressing themselves in bloody hoodies, blackface and carrying Skittles pretending to be Trayvon Martin – one of tens of thousands of black men who are senselessly murdered each year. I am awestruck by young adult women dressing as “sexy” nuns, Native Americans, cholas and God.
This year's most tasteless award has to go to the woman I’ve seen numerous times on social media dressed in Middle-Eastern clothing and carrying a doll pretending to be a Syrian refugee. You know, one of the millions of people who have been displaced due to civil war and tragedy, who have seen tragedies that probably none of us living in the United States have. Yeah, that was someone’s Halloween costume this year. Combine that with the recent trend of taking elements of other cultures such as the Hindu Bindi, the Middle-Eastern Hamsa Hand and Native American headdresses and converting them into industrialized, mass-produced ornaments that now sit conveniently in boutiques ready for people who have no idea what they mean, but choose to don them because they look “cute,” and I, along with many others, am 50 shades of done with y’all's nonsense.
Let’s tackle one thing at a time and start with the obvious: your tasteless Halloween costumes. Please spare me the, “it was just a joke,” and the ever so dreadful, “you want us to like you but get mad when we want to learn about your culture.” Let’s get one thing very clear: it’s not cute to dress up as caricatures of other human beings. You aren’t fooling anyone when you say that you want to be funny or that you want to explore yourself. You cannot take significant cultural aspects or make a stereotype of other groups yours for the night so you can take funny pictures for Instagram or fulfill whatever void is present in your soul that drives you to be as offensive as possible.
But even all that aside, what continues to amaze me is that it’s the same people who go out of their way and put all of their energy and creativity into these obscene outfits who can’t seem to take a little bit of that time out of their day to ponder why minority populations get offended when our culture is appropriated or turned into Halloween costumes or when our tragedies turn into your comedies.
So allow me to elaborate. You want to dress up as a sexy Native American on Halloween and wear a headdress to your music festival this weekend, but you cringe when the Trail of Tears gets brought up in history class and don’t feel the need to learn about it. You see no harm in blackface parties and love to tell everyone about your three black friends but are the first to shout "all lives matter" in a condescending voice at a Black Lives Matter event, refusing to acknowledge the hurt you cause to your three black friends. You love hummus and love to express your sorrow to every Hijabi woman you see because you want her to know you’re all about liberating the Middle East, yet when your government uses drones and kills innocent women and girls in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan, you jump up and down screaming about “collateral damage.” How can you possibly expect me to take your opinion on social etiquette seriously when you can’t even make up your mind about whether you like us or hate us?
It all boils down to the fine line between appreciating someone’s culture and being greedy and snatching aspects of it for your own amusement. For example, if I invite you to my Pakistani wedding, I would love to see you come in colorful, traditional clothing because it’s an appropriate venue. But if all throughout high school you made fun of me for wearing my traditional clothes and culture, and then you turn around and post pics for "the Gram," expect me to call you out on your hypocrisy. A good way to appreciate one's culture is in the right time and setting, and a Halloween party is most likely not that setting. The best way is to stand with your peers and advocate for their causes, not force them to allow you to make a mockery of their existence.
Sehar Ezez is a senior majoring in history. Her column runs biweekly.