Universities warn against costumes based on other cultures

Anthony Gockowski
Contributing Editor/Investigative Reporter

  • Universities across the country are once again encouraging students to think twice about their costume choices this Halloween, promoting the yearly “culture not a costume” campaign.
  • The "We're a Culture Not a Costume" campaign was started by Ohio University students in 2011, and has since spread to schools across the country. This year, Towson University and DePauw University are among those promoting the effort.
  • Posters used at Penn State University as part of the "We're a Culture Not a Costume" campaign in 2016.

    Universities across the country are once again encouraging students to think twice about their costume choices this Halloween, promoting the yearly “culture not a costume” campaign.

    The “culture not a costume” campaign was first popularized by Ohio University students in 2011, with a series of images showing minority students holding photos of people dressed as interpretations of their respective ethnicities.

    "As you plan costumes, remember that there is no reason to perpetuate hurtful assumptions."   

    [RELATED: Student magazine warns against ‘racist’ Halloween costumes]

    “We’re a culture not a costume. This is not who I am, and this is not okay,” the images read, prompting an annual tradition of cracking down on offensive Halloween costumes.

    Last year, for instance, students at Arizona State University held an on-campus rally during which they dressed up as stereotypical portrayals of their cultures, holding signs with the hackneyed slogan.

    “These costumes, I guess, are a mockery of our own traditions,” explained one student dressed in native garb, while another remarked upon how inauthentic the costumes were.

    “Look at this cheap fur. Like we don’t even—this does not accurately portray my culture. And this headband? I don’t even know what’s up with it,” she stated.

    Another explained that Native American clothing actually costs “hundreds of dollars,” and so doesn’t compare to the Halloween interpretation.

    “I feel terrible. I feel so bad. This costume makes me feel like I’m mocking an entire country. I’m mocking thousands of years of culture and history,” lamented another student who was dressed in an Asian costume.

    [RELATED: Yale honors students who mobbed prof over costume controversy]

    This year, Towson University announced that is has joined “Ohio University and universities across the country in reminding our community this Halloween that ‘we’re a culture, not a costume.’”

    “Halloween costumes that are based on ethnic, racial, religious, gender, ability, and other cultural stereotypes are hurtful and reduce people’s identities into caricatures,” the university elaborates, noting that “intent may be far different than the impact,” and that “one night of fun” can turn into a “stigma that others wear for life.”

    DePauw University also publicized the campaign, telling students in its “Tuesday tip” that “stereotypes hurt.”

    “As you plan costumes, remember that there is no reason to perpetuate hurtful assumptions about a person or population,” the Multicultural Student Services Center informed students.

    [RELATED: Penn State costume-shames students with poster campaign]

    Similarly, Central Michigan University’s Student Government Association announced plans to host an October 25 event dedicated to ending stereotypical costumes in a recent Facebook post, encouraging students to “Get involved and take a stance against the appropriation of costumes by volunteering for culture not a costume.”

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski





    Anthony Gockowski

    Anthony Gockowski

    Contributing Editor/Investigative Reporter

    Anthony Gockowski is the Contributing Editor and an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. He previously worked for The Daily Caller, Intercollegiate Review, The Catholic Spirit, and The College Fix.

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