Dorm display warns against 'cultural appropriation' on Halloween

A bulletin board is urging students in a Kent State University residence hall to “stop cultural appropriation this Halloween” by eschewing costumes based on other cultures.

According to the display, located in Allyn Hall, cultural appropriation occurs whenever somebody “adopts aspects of a culture that’s not their own,” elaborating that “it is the adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another.”

In addition, it says the term “also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”

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

The board features several examples of unacceptable costumes taken from the “We’re a Culture Not a Costume” campaign that was begun by Ohio University students in 2011.

Juxtaposing images of disappointed-looking individuals with stereotypical depictions of their culture—including an Asian in nerd-ensemble, a black man dressed as a gangster, and a pregnant woman of ambiguous ethnicity smoking a cigarette—the flyers remind students that “you wear the costume for one night, [but] I wear the stigma for life.”

[RELATED: Universities warn against costumes based on other cultures]

In addition to the pictures, the board offers advice to help students ensure that they are not guilty of cultural appropriation this Halloween.

“Consider your social position” and “do research before you buy your costume,” it instructs reiterating that “culture is not a costume,” and for good measure reminding students not to “paint your skin any color found in the human race.”

Campus Reform reached out to Residence Hall Director Myriah Wiltrout for more information about the display, but did not receive a response.

Assistant Hall Director Elizabeth Reese referred Campus Reform to the resident assistant responsible for the floor on which the display is located, but the RA did not respond. Reese did offer to answer any questions herself, noting that “appropriation is something we talk about often at this time [of year],” but has yet to respond to Campus Reform’s request for clarification.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ezrahkatz