UNIVERSITY OF DENVER- It doesn’t matter if we’re all legal adults and most of us take care of ourselves when we’re sick instead of calling our moms. In this day and age, college students will still dress up for Halloween and no, we don’t always beg for candy. Dressing up is the what makes the holiday so much fun.
“In girl world, Halloween is the one day a year where girls can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.” Some students say that this quote from the 2004 movie Mean Girls speaks volumes about today’s society.
People, especially teenage girls, are more likely to find “sexy” Halloween costumes at the store. Some of these include “sexy bunny, sexy Minnie Mouse, or sexy Freddy Krueger.” It seems as though there is no harm in this. However, there has been a long battle over the years in deciding if it’s okay to sexually fetishize another person’s culture.
In the DU community, as well as across the nation, people have a word for the terms “sexy Indian girl” or “cute Motown hippie.” They call this culture appropriation. And for some, it’s scariest thing on Halloween night.
Last year for Halloween, the Housing and Residential Education department at the University of Denver started a campaign called “My Culture is Not a Costume.” This sparked plenty of conversations within the campus about whether this idea of culture appropriation was evident at DU or not.
Sabrina Williams, a senior at the University of Denver, recalls this event. “Last year, there was a student of Mexican descent who was on social media blatantly telling everyone that culture appropriation was a lie and that everybody was acting up for no reason. Many people from the Latinx, Black, and Native Student Alliance were outraged.”
Williams was appalled that the student was from a minority group. She states that most students who are unaware of the negative effects of culture appropriation are usually students from a white background. “It just shows that this issue needs to have more awareness through all races and cultures.”
“I saw students wearing ponchos and sombreros last year, as well as a student wearing a dashiki. People were also posting threatening comments on Yik Yak.” Recalls sophomore and Vice President of the Black Student Alliance, Tashan Montgomery. He is an advocate for equal rights both in and outside of the University of Denver community. He believes that although culture appropriation exists within our school, the fault isn’t always on the individual. Montgomery says he voices his insight about cultural appropriation to those who participate in it but are not aware of the social marginalization they are putting the Black, Latinx, Native-American community through.
President of the Native Student Alliance, Danella Hall also seemed to agree with Montgomery that students need to be educated, and those who want to make a change should do so in the best manner possible. “I feel an obligation to help others understand. If that means explaining to people that Native people do not wear regalia like those sold in Halloween stores, or that we don’t still live in teepees, or whatever other false assumptions they have about my kind, I usually attempt to answer it in the most respectful way.”
At the University of Denver, culture appropriation is more apparent during Halloween season. Many students will agree that it’s not ONLY Halloween that triggers this issue.
“Outside of Halloween, I’ve heard friends talk about seeing students in black face.” Says Tashan Montgomery. Recently, there have been numerous students who have been disciplined by their colleges for posting pictures and videos of themselves in Blackface, mocking the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It makes me angry that people assume it’s okay to dress up as a ‘Native princess,’ ‘Chief,’ ‘Sexy Indian,’ or other stupid costumes like that.” States Danella Hall. She also believes that culture appropriation is not just a once-a-year issue. “As a group we are constantly being falsely portrayed through movies, tv shows, fashion, in history books, etc.”
At DU, students see that this type of racial issue is prominent every year on Halloween, as well as any other day of the year. Some students believe that the media is to blame for such false connotations of different cultures and the only way to combat this issue, is to voice their opinions.