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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Can Halloween Costumes Be Controversial?


[one_third]Liberal – Babatunde Ojo

For an outfit to be controversial, I feel as though it needs to be done without tact and consideration.

Dressing up in costume as a Native American is generally seen as a controversial costume due to the negative connotations. But what else crosses that line from “innocent” costume, to “controversial” costume.

When people dress up provocatively as a doctor/nurse, firefighter, or police officer, does this mean anything? Or if someone were to dress up as a priest/nun with a twist of dark humor?

Then comes the limit of how much one can wear “blackface” (or any other “face”). What crosses the line from someone painting their faces to appear more ghoulish and someone else doing it as a caricature of a stereotype?

There have been many reported issues of people wearing inappropriate and offensive costumes, and it can be difficult to gauge if certain individuals even realized if what they were wearing was okay or not.

It will not always be easy to tell when a costume goes too far, but maybe some form of discretion should be used when picking out what you wear on the second most frightening day of the year.

[one_third]Independent – Victoria Nguyen

Halloween is a holiday that should be enjoyed by all various forms of audiences. It is on this special night that one is given the opportunity to dress up as anything they want to be and spend the rest of the night eating delicious candy with their close friends. But what truly constitutes as a good costume? In recent years, the issue of cultural appropriation has been notably raised in today’s society with all kinds of people from ethnic backgrounds speaking up against the supposed brandishing of their culture. Cultural appropriation is highly apparent in popular Halloween costumes.

In a recent article published by Teen Vogue, the magazine defined the negative effects of cultural appropriation’s assimilation in the holiday, by stating that “once you’ve dehumanized someone, you can co-opt their culture with ease; their language, dress, and customs aren’t worthy of the respect you reserve for your own.” I, for one, believe in this claim. One should not be in blackface, another should not dress up as a Japanese geisha.

However, to deviate away from the Halloween debate, I think that our society should clearly define what is cultural appropriation and what is cultural respect. Individuals who are not fully educated on this matter can be simply inspired and passionate about another culture, can potentially face intense accusations of appropriating culture if not done so correctly. Others who blindly toss the term “cultural appropriation” can increase confusion.

It is true that no one should dress up as various forms that are evident and normalized in other cultural backgrounds, but we need to discuss this issue and its potential solutions on all other days besides just Halloween. We need to step outside of the box and start educating ourselves.

[one_third]Conservative – Adrian Wong

Every year, the debate arises of which Halloween costumes are too offensive to wear.  Recently, a company had to pull an Anne Frank costume from their website after receiving significant backlash from consumers.  Related to this, we have seen a similar debate about whether or not it is acceptable to dress in blackface or to dress as a Native American.  While the law protects the right for one to dress however they wish, it is not socially acceptable to dress in any of these costumes.

When I hear that someone is dressing in an offensive manner, my first question is why.  I personally will never understand someone’s desire to try something like this.  The risk is way too high for almost no reward.  A person doesn’t really stand to gain from dressing as Anne Frank.  Given the history behind blackface, it is understandable that there are people who would not be happy to see someone dressed in such a way. 

In today’s world, you can’t guarantee that someone else is going to behave peacefully either.  People who get offended regularly punch, hit, and beat the people who offend them. While this behavior certainly cannot be condoned, it is general common sense that one should avoid this potential interaction by simply picking a normal costume.  Furthermore, dressing in such a way can very likely cost someone their reputation.  Often, students are removed from universities because of unwise decisions like dressing in blackface for Halloween.  The bottom line is that dressing in an offensive costume might technically be legal; however, it is not worth risking a reputation by dressing offensively. 

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