Halloween is just around the corner, and unsurprisingly, student organizations and activists on campuses all across the country are frantic to regulate costumes. Washington State University students, in particular, are now walking on eggshells after a campus presentation entitled “We’re a Culture, not a Costume” warned students of accidentally appropriating culture when celebrating Halloween.
The talk was hosted by the Associated Students of Washington State University (ASWSU) and the Social Justice Peer Educators in order to discuss the dangers of offending others through dress. At the event, audience members were able to air their grievances with certain hairstyles and apparel that they’ve observed students wear on campus and have subjectively regarded as cultural appropriation. These included spotting a student with cornrows, as well as a student who wore a Fidel Castro costume.
Jayda Moore, a Social Justice Peer Educator from the school’s Diversity Education department, expressed contention with prospective costumes students may have planned on wearing, fearing that many can be perceived as “disrespectful” and even “harmful” to certain students on the Pullman campus.
Moore explained that cultural appropriation is typically for the purpose of fashion, and is “usually done by the dominant member’s group” by “taking elements from an oppressed or marginalized group.”
This context is reminiscent of WSU’s Diversity Education department’s mission statement, in which they aim to “dismantle the barriers that historically have excluded and marginalized certain groups from accessing higher education.”
Moore also spoke about her concern with blackface and how blackface “limits the seriousness of the Black experience in the country.”
“Blackface has a … really long and very racist history,” Moore expressed. She then held up a photo of an unspecified white man who wore blackface in an attempt to portray Trayvon Martin.
“We shouldn’t make fun of those people who had lost their lives,” Moore added.
“We want to make sure that school is inclusive and people can understand the importance of cultures,” Deputy Director of Communication for ASWSU Zana Crites expressed. Crites stated one her group’s objectives were for students at Washington State to come to the realization of the offensiveness to various cultures that their costumes carry.