HILARY VO; Mast Writer; vohn@plu.edu

Halloween is here, and it can be offensive. At a recent panel hosted by Pacific Lutheran University’s Gender and Equity committee, Professor Katherine Wiley, Resident Directors Rachel Betron and Luke Ruiz and Center for Gender Equity Outreach and Prevention Coordinator Tolu Taiwo, discussed what it means when someone turns your culture into a costume.

In case you missed the discussion, cultural appropriation is defined as: “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.” [Susan Scafidi].

Most of the panelists reiterated some form of this quote in their personal definitions. Professor Wiley said, “Cultural appropriation continues racist ideas,” while Tolu said, “The difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation is laughing with someone versus laughing at them.”

So, if you plan on celebrating tonight or stretching Halloween celebrations into the upcoming weekend, before reaching for the “cute” Native American headdress, or the cheap sombrero, think about what these artifacts mean to the cultures you are taking them from. Nicki Minaj, a black female rap artist says it best: “Come on, you can’t want the good without the bad. If you want to enjoy our culture and our lifestyle, bond with us, dance with us, have fun with us, twerk with us, rap with us, then you should also want to know what affects us, what is bothering us, what we feel is unfair to us. You shouldn’t not want to know that.”

It is important to note that the main goal for bringing awareness to cultural appropriation is to bring awareness to the impact of marginalization in the communities most affected. Cultural appropriation has its foundations in the oppression of marginalized groups in the imperialist nature of white America. ◼︎

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