OUR VIEW: Call it what it is

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by The Simpsonian Editorial Board

Political correctness. Cultural appropriation. Racism.

With Halloween this past weekend, these issues littered the news media and opinion columns of every major news source.

As Halloween approached, many news organizations from Buzzfeed to CNN posted articles, videos and critiques regarding the issue of cultural appropriation in costumes. As if Halloween does not get enough attention from retailers, here was one more thing to cause a fight.

But it was worth the fight.

Cultural appropriation is essentially the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture in a largely negative way. One example that caught flack this Halloween season was appropriating Native American culture through costumes.

The issue is not one of political correctness. Portraying Native Americans through fringe and feather costumes is a degrading, unnecessary practice that benefits no one and hurts many.

Halloween in America is a time to play dress up and have fun. Dressing up as a Disney princess or “Netflix and chill” is all in good fun. Those costumes show humor or love for a fictional character.

But Native Americans and members of other oppressed cultures are not fictional characters.

Their struggles are not fictional. Members of these exploited cultures have experienced true pain and suffering in the past and even now. This pain was oftentimes inflicted by members of the very same culture now dressing in mockery of the oppressed culture.

Do not say it is harmless fun. Do not say it is only a holiday. Do not say people should lighten up about this issue.

When members of a more powerful culture pick and choose aspects of another culture to exploit, it is harmful and demeaning. Even if these acts are done with good intentions, there is an underlying negativity that cannot be ignored. Cultural appropriation is inexcusable, even if the excuse is “it’s an outfit worn for one night” or anything else.

Offensive costuming and cultural appropriation are beneath us. We can do better. We can call these things what they are: blatant ignorance and perpetuating racism.