With Halloween approaching, Carmen Law, Director, Belonging, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, shares an important distinction between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, resources to learn more, and questions for self-reflection if you are unsure how to decide if something is cultural appropriation.
Cultural Appropriation: "Taking one aspect of a culture that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest."
"Philosopher Erich Hatala Matthes refers to these three types of cultural appropriation as theft, misuse, and misrepresentation. When discussing Halloween costumes, we’re discussing the last of these three - misrepresentation." Read more from this article.
Cultural Appreciation: "Someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally." Source: Cultural Appreciation vs. Cultural Appropriation: Why it Matters. Read more from this article: Cultural Appropriation, A Perennial Issue On Halloween (NPR)
- We’re a Culture, Not a Costume: Student Leader Toolkit (University of Denver)
- We’re a Culture, Not a Costume: Housing and Residential Education (University of Denver)
- 7 Myths about Cultural Appropriation DEBUNKED! (Decoded | MTV News)
- #IAmNotACostume Campaign (Laurier Students' Public Interest Research Group)
- my culture is NOT a costume (Baylor University)
- Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Appreciation (CBC Radio Unreserved)
- Learning about Cultural Appropriation: A Resource List (Waasayaa Consulting)
- Appropriate Halloween Costumes - #MyCultureIsNotACostume (Toronto District School Board)
If you are unsure how to decide if something is cultural appropriation, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is your goal with what you are doing?
- Are you following a trend or exploring the history of a culture?
- Are you deliberately trying to insult someone's culture or are you being respectful?
- Are you purchasing something (e.g., artwork) that is a reproduction of a culture or an original?
- How would people from the culture you are borrowing from feel about what you are doing?
- Are there any stereotypes involved in what you are doing?
- Are you using a sacred item (e.g., headdress) in a flippant or fun way?
- Are you borrowing something from an ancient culture and pretending that it is new?
- Are you crediting the source or inspiration of what you are doing?
- If a person of the original culture were to do what you are doing, would they be viewed as "cool" or could they possibly face discrimination?
- Are you wearing a costume (e.g., Geisha girl, tribal wear) that represents a culture?
- Are you ignoring the cultural significance of something in favor of following a trend?