U.S. colleges are now warning students that they must avoid “cultural appropriation” in their Halloween costume choices, but some students are pushing back.
“Cultural appropriation” is the new buzzword which refers to people of one culture dressing up like people of another culture. For instance, a white person wearing an Indian headdress as a Halloween costume would be seen as “appropriating” the indigenous culture’s clothing. Millennials see “cultural appropriation” as highly offensive and “hurtful.”
One conservative student group, known as the Young Americans for Freedom, decided to start a national counter-initiative to protest the sanitization of Halloween, titled “Funeral for Halloween.” Students plan to fill a mock coffin with Halloween decorations and hand out fake obituaries announcing the “untimely death” of the holiday killed by “political correctness.”
Young Americans president Clare McKinney has been unable to get approval from the Student Activities Office of Notre Dame and its sister school, Saint Mary’s College, to set up on the quad next week.
Student affairs staff have repeatedly told her they need to “discuss the request” with YAF, as well as with other university departments, before they can approve it.
“We’ve had about 15 events, and biweekly club meetings, and I’ve never had problems reserving space for anything else,” said McKinney.
McKinney said she has been mocked and smeared on social media by fellow students for her opposition to the school’s participation in the annual “culture, not a costume” campaign, where schools apply that cautionary tagline to events, flyers, and social media posts ahead of Halloween.
A big fear this year is that white people will dress up as the popular Polyensian Disney princess Moana.
The “culture, not a costume” program, which was co-sponsored by the sociology and justice studies departments and pushed by administrators in a student-wide email, is said to be set up to make sure Halloween was fun and inoffensive.
Other schools using the “culture not costume” line include Central Michigan University, Washington State University, Kent State University, Dickinson College, Northern Arizona University, and many others.
Arcadia University’s departments of sociology, anthropology, and criminal justice held a program titled, “Cultural Appropriation: The Scariest Thing About Halloween.”
The University of St. Thomas posted pointers on its blog to help students who might be “second-guessing” their outfits. For instance, if a student realizes his costume could be described with the words “traditional,” “tribal,” or “ethnic”, that’s a signal to change costumes.
Adam Goldstein, the Jackson Legal Fellow at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a free speech organization, said students who run into problems regarding their costumes should seek legal aid.
“Public universities are bound by the First Amendment and private universities that have promised freedom of expression to their students have made their own contractual obligation to the students,” said Goldstein. “If administrators break those agreements, students should stand up for what they believe.”
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