Students weigh in on culture appropriation on Halloween night


Photo & graphic credit: Chelsea Hernandez


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.


Sabrina Williams, Sr. Resident Assistant at Centennial Towers …………………………………….      Q: How did you feel when you saw someone defending culture appropriation?  “I was amazed. It just shows that this issue needs to have more awareness through all races and cultures.” Centennial Towers Sept. 9, 2016. 8pm

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.”


Tashan Montgomery, Soph. Vice President of the Black Student Alliance. ………………………………………Q: What is your opinion on people who say culture appropriation isn’t problem? “When it comes to social levels, I side-eye people who love hip-hop, love R&B, love to say the ‘N’ word, thinking of it as slang, yet are silent when it comes to issues the Black community faces.” Nelson Dining Hall Sept. 28, 2016. 6pm

“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.


Danella Hall, Soph. President of the Native Student Alliance ……………………………………….. Q: What does culture appropriation mean to you? “Culture appropriation is just another confirmation to me of how misrepresented Native people are in the media, resulting in the uneducated and ignorant people who think dressing in ‘Native’ costume is appropriate.” Storm College of Law Oct. 2, 2016. 5pm

“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.



2 thoughts on “Students weigh in on culture appropriation on Halloween night

  1. This was a great take on an issue that is so prevalent at DU. I think its great that you interviewed students involved with DU’s student alliances because they provide a informed and personal perspective to the story. I think educating the student body at DU about cultural appropriation is so important because many students do not understand what they’re doing is offensive to others. Overall, this was a great story thanks for sharing!


  2. I enjoyed that you covered an issue that is not covered as much and is very relevant and timely for our university right now. I really liked your cover photo and the title. I knew going into the story what it would be about because the title was straightforward and intriguing. It gave room for your opinion to be left out and for the opinions of the students to be present, which is the way a news story should be. Your links were effective as well and gave more background information the reader may want or need for this story. There were a few places where the flow seemed to hiccup, but overall it was organized and flowed nicely. There are a few AP style issues within the piece, but those will be easy to fix for your next story. Overall, I liked your topic and thought you did a good job in the execution of writing the piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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