Residence Life Warns Against Cultural Misappropriation

California Lutheran University’s Residence Life and Multicultural offices have advocated the assembling of culturally appropriate costumes for students wishing to participate in this year’s Halloween.

In doing so, Residence Life has distributed fliers conveying this message. It recommends students prepare their costumes while considering the implications of impersonating a group of people or race in a disrespectful way.

Andy Hanson, coordinator for Residence Life and Student Conduct created the fliers with the intent of educating and urging students to express respect for cultures other than their own.

“[I] then created the poster with information pulled from two other fliers from Wesleyan Student Affairs and Hampshire College,” Hanson said in an email interview. “With the same intentions of educating those who are unaware reminding those who are aware, and empowering impacted students by showing respect for all people of all cultures as a representative of Cal Lutheran.”

Hanson also encourages students to think about the features of their costume that promote inaccurate stereotypes. If the costume represents a culture other than their own or if the costume represents cultural differences in a mocking way, Hanson said.

These posters are a culmination between two like-minded offices on campus that seek to promote respect among the many cultures at Cal Lutheran. What these posters truly aim to do is educate and inform students who may or may not know they are possibly offending a group or race of people.

“I’d like these posters to minimally engage critical thinking through the simple questions posed,” Hanson said in an email interview. “If anyone is already aware of many things that are considered offensive or culturally insensitive and they see this poster, my hope is they feel empowered to have a conversation to share the knowledge in order to be respectful of all people of all cultures.”

Contributing to this dialogue is the Multicultural Programs office, offering their take in the creation of these fliers. Juanita Hall, senior director of Multicultural and International Student Services, was asked to contribute her take on them.

“The promo is simply asking students to think about what they are putting on and how what they are choosing to wear might appear to others from a particular cultural group.  When in doubt, you might be crossing an invisible line,” Hall said in an email interview.

The ways to avoid the offensive or inappropriate costume is by portraying characters in popular culture or their favorite object that could be made into a costume.

“Super heroes/heroines, professions, fictional characters, scary creatures, animals, inanimate objects.  Once I [dressed up as] a California Raisin,” Hall said in an email interview.

Themes for Halloween parties can often identify and elaborate on a specific culture’s traits or symbols. Examples of this include a party hosted at University of California, Los Angeles named the “Kanye Western Party,” in which a large portion of  white students portrayed black people using blackface, according to the Washington Post.

“Underrepresented students can already struggle with feeling a sense of belonging and acceptance.  Having their culture put on display as a costume can be hurtful and sends the message of exclusion rather than inclusion,” Hall said in an email interview.

Students who share this opinion of acceptance also feel there is very little reason to assemble their costume in an offensive way, even if their intention was to be humorous.

“If someone were to dress up or mock my culture, I would be offended,” senior Louise Millet said. “I don’t understand how that would be a funny Halloween costume. Just be a pumpkin, why do you have to be ISIS?”

While Halloween is usually associated with candy and children dressing up from zombies to princesses, this offers an insight into how we can maintain a years-old tradition but not years-old ignorance.

Connor McKinney
Staff Writer