UMass creates cultural appropriation 'threat meter' for Halloween
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst is posting “cultural appropriation” posters in each of the residence halls on campus featuring a detailed “racism evaluation and assessment meter.”
The initiative is being spearheaded by the Center for Women and Community, the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success, and the campus’ diversity office, the Stonewall Center.
“It’s not fair to ask any culture to freeze itself in time and live as though they were a museum diorama.”
“Don’t be an asshole,” one display urges students, providing several leaflets to help them understand the effects of cultural appropriation.
The board also includes a poster to help measure the “threat level” of a potential costume using what it calls the “Simple Costume Racism Evaluation and Assessment Meter” (S.C.R.E.A.M.) which poses several costume-related questions, the answers to which take one to various points on a “threat meter” that ranges from green (low) to red (severe).
If one intends to represent a person on Halloween, the only way to get a “green” threat rating is for the person to be of one’s own race. If one represents a person of another race, the “threat level” increases roughly in conjunction with the amount of makeup that one intends to use.
Even representing a “thing/idea” is dangerous, though, the flyer says, warning against costumes that can only be understood in the context of “controversial current events or historically accepted cliches,” particularly if “these events or cliches relate to a person or people not of your race.”
Another display on a different bulletin board asserts that “cultural appropriation is an act of privilege, and leads to offensive, inaccurate, and stereotypical portrayals of other people’s culture.”
It then goes on to outline steps that students can take to inform their peers if a costume may be considered inappropriate or offensive, using Native American costumes as the prime example.
“No, it’s cool, it’s not like your ancestors killed them all or anything,” reads one flyer alongside a cartoon of two white women in headdresses. “Hypersexualized racism...is still racism,” states another flyer featuring pictures of women dressed in “sexy Indian” costumes.
One of the displays does, however, concede that there is some value to cultural appropriation, in the sense that it helps to preserve elements of cultures that have faded over time.
“It’s not fair to ask any culture to freeze itself in time and live as though they were a museum diorama,” one poster quotes author Susan Scafidi. “Cultural appropriation can sometimes be the savior of a cultural product that has faded away.”
Campus Reform reached out to the university for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Tyler_Palermo