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Ahead of Halloween, universities nationwide tell students what not to wear

Throughout October, universities across the nation are warning their students against Halloween costumes some consider offensive.

Gone are the days when college students could dress up without fear of being reported to a bias response team. In recent years, more and more campus leaders have made it their mission to warn students what not to wear.

Fliers, memos, workshops and more impart the admonitions.

“Unacceptable costumes” listed on a University of St. Thomas diversity flier are “wearing Native American headdresses, dressing up as a ‘Mexican’ by wearing a sombrero, dressing as a ‘geisha,’ any form of blackface.”

“Cultural appropriation is defined as ‘the act of taking intellectual and cultural expressions from a culture that is not your own, without showing that you understand or respect the culture,'” explains a University of St. Thomas diversity memo to students.

“This can be as simple as wearing a Dashiki without knowledge or respect to West African culture, and as serious as wearing a fake Native American headdress without any regard of its sacredness,” adds the memo. “It generally incorporates a history of prejudice and discrimination by perpetuating long-standing stereotypes.”

At UC Santa Barbara, a social justice workshop set for Tuesday will delve into how Halloween costumes abuse “indigenous wear” and teach students how to “spot appropriation with the help of bell hooks’ essay ‘Eating the Other.'”

At a “Conversation Circle” at Princeton University this Sunday, students will “engage in a dialogue about the impact of cultural appropriation, Halloween, and why culture is not a costume.”

MORE: Campus police to probe ‘offensive’ Halloween costumes, students told

A guide put out by Northern Arizona University’s Housing and Residence Life warns against African-inspired get ups, a Pocahontas costume, Asian rice hats and more.

A workshop scheduled for Tuesday at the University of Southern Indiana will include a discussion of cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes and culminate with an opportunity for students to make their own costumes that
are “culturally appropriate,” according to an online event description.

An October letter written by members of University of Utah’s student affairs diversity council states: “As you get ready for Halloween here are some tips you can put into practice. Think to yourself: ‘Does the actual name on the costume packaging say ‘tribal’ or ‘traditional’? Does the costume include race related hair or accessories (dreads/locs, afros, cornrows, a headdress)? Does the costume play into racial stereotypes? … If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should rethink the costume and try again.”

Meanwhile, a “Not Your Festival Wear” workshop is slated for Oct. 24 at Minnesota State University Moorhead and Vanderbilt feminists will help to lead an event about cultural appropriation “just in time for Halloween,” its website states.

A “Halloween and Cultural Appropriation Tabling” at Goucher College earlier this month explained to students that the “scariest thing about your costume isn’t what you think,” and a cultural appropriation diversity workshop already took place at Texas A&M University on Oct. 9.

The University of New Hampshire went so far as to host an entire cultural appropriation “teach in” last week that didn’t just stick to Halloween but also included Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos.

MORE: Here come the warnings about ‘proper’ Halloween attire

IMAGE: Northern Arizona University screenshot

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.