Halloween is just around the corner and seeing that Canada has just elected its first “brown” prime minister — whose outrageous brownface costume from 2001 made national news in September — it makes sense to discuss if you can dress up as Justin Trudeau for this holiday.
Each year, complaints are made over controversial costumes, which are sold at stores for Halloween. Some of these getups include tribal chiefs, a sexy handmaid, terrorists and geishas.
When donning these costumes — while having no relation to the respective culture — many are accused of committing cultural appropriation. But before understanding how this can be harmful, you need to understand what cultural appropriation really is.
Cultural appropriation occurs when someone adopts cultural elements from another culture — including practices and symbols — without respecting the context. More often than not, minority cultures are targeted. Although it is true that cultures intertwine due to many of them sharing traditions and attire, it takes a certain type of ignorance to mock something sacred.
Many believe the term is directed towards white people to make them think twice before they use something from another culture. However, cultural appropriation can be committed by anyone who chooses to be ignorant about what they’re borrowing from other cultures.
Realistically, the most important part of this whole debate is to assess the damages done by someone’s actions — are they actually harming a minority or is this just a false alarm?
For example, some people wonder if they can dress up as their favourite characters, such as Kelly Kapoor from The Office or Sergeant Terry Jeffords from Brooklyn Nine-Nine — and believe it or not, it is possible. I promise you that it isn’t necessary to wear blackface to show that you are Sgt. Terry or wrap the most outrageous sari to prove that you are, indeed, Kelly Kapoor.
There are so many different ways to show that you’re dressed as a specific character that it just doesn’t make sense to overly exaggerate their features and traditions. After all, Halloween is all about being creative, so find a unique way to wear your costume!
It’s also important to remember that context is key. Some people are completely unaware that they’re mocking someone’s sacred symbols or traditions and don a costume because that is what’s “trending” at the moment. This is where it falls on all of us to educate instead of shunning those that may have made that mistake.
Of course, that is no excuse to dress up as a “sexy niqabi” or a “Mexican bandit” — because there is no reason to be that dull in 2019. But if someone wears a fencing outfit and puts on a hijab to dress up as Ibtihaj Muhammad, I have no reason to be upset.
But trust me, if someone invites you to an Arabian Nights themed Halloween party, your Aladdin costume is enough — everyone will know who you are.
Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor