The Joonko Effect

Halloween Is Great When You Don't Appropriate

Posted by Joonko on Oct 31, 2019 12:13:21 PM


Diversity Costumes, Halloween, Cultural Appropriation

When Halloween comes around each year, the scariest thing that happens without a doubt, is appropriation.

Over the years, we’ve seen things like Black Face, moccasins and headdresses, sombreros and hijabs, gypsy costumes and more all being worn inappropriately to celebrate the masquerading holiday. Underrepresented and misrepresented groups have been experiencing costume-based discrimination for centuries and yet it continues to show itself right on schedule.

Diversity in the Workplace, Halloween, Costume Inclusion

So, a (VERY) quick history lesson: The origination of Halloween costumes was an attempt to ward off evil spirits believed to be released on All Hallow’s Eve. As modern day spook-enthusiasts have shifted Halloween celebrations into a $9 billion industry of horror, this playful holiday has transformed into a monster-sized catalyst for cultural appropriation.

Companies like Amazon have so much work to do when it comes to celebrating Halloween. For example, if someone searches “terrorist costume,” the results returned are “Arab Sheikh” or “Arab Prince.” Not cool. Additionally, search results for “Mexican costume” promote sombreros and ponchos worn by a white male. These offensive search terms only serve a discriminatory community and continue to yield profits for a multi-billion dollar company.

So, before heading out to gather tricks and treats, do a double-take of your costume. Give your makeup, clothing, and inspiration sincere thought to make sure it’s D&I certified. To make this a little easier for your Halloween festivities, we’ve put together a list of culturally and naturally insensitive costumes to steer clear of year after year.

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples costumes, Indian Costumes, Diversity and Inclusion

It’s true traditional Native American attire is known for its colorful and dramatic aesthetic making the culture a target for appropriation. Animal skins, feathers, woven fabrics and fringe show up like clockwork on Halloween. The important fact to understand is that indigenous peoples have a history of stolen land, slavery, erasure and more. These communities have been slowly shedding since the arrival of European settlers whose intention was to convert and enrapture. Given this traumatic history, this is not a costume to don on Halloween.


Hispanic Communities, LatinX, Diverse Costumes, Inclusion

Remove the sombrero, put down the poncho and take off that mustache. That sugar skull paint has got to go, too. The Hispanic and LatinX community is made into a mockery each year when Halloween comes around. Too often we see all types of non-related individuals dress up as members of these communities in unacceptable manners. Additionally, as our country continues to make the hispanic community feel unwelcome and increasingly creates hurdles for their citizenship, mocking their culture with a Halloween costume is not the route to take.

Middle Eastern Culture

Middle Eastern Inclusion, Middle Eastern Discrimination, Costume Diversity

Each Halloween Middle Eastern cultures are given a negative context, like we mentioned above. Highly religious garments like Hijabs and Sheikh robbing are worn in disrespectful manners leading many to associate these cultures offensively. Middle Eastern communities have faced on-going claims of terrorism and rogue nationalism when in fact neither of these things can be regarded as cultural identifiers. This community has repeatedly received slander from the media fueling obscene actions like wearing traditional dress or religious garments as costumes. These actions being displayed at Halloween festivities defines the anti-semantic behaviors these communities perpetually receive.

Roma or Gypsy

India Costumes, Workplace Diversity, Bohemian Costume

To many, this term is highly offensive and this costume can cause quite the controversy. Additionally, despite popular belief, “tribes” or “nations” of gypsies or Romas did not derive from European states, but rather Gypsy nomadic culture originated in Punjab, a northern region in India. However, due to popular movies like Hunchback of Notre Dame and King of the Gypsies, their cultural has been eradicated and misrepresented throughout time. Although often considered to be fun and bohemian Halloween costumes, dressing as a gypsy leaves room to pay offense to Pacific- Eastern cultures.

Holocaust Victims or Nazis Costumes

Jewish Costumes, Holocaust, Hitler, Workplace Diversity

The Jewish community carries an extremely heavy history, from the Holocaust to religious traumas, dressing up to misrepresent the Jewish faith is extremely off-color. Likewise, some of the most highly offensive costumes we’ve seen are Holocaust victims, member of Nazi Party under the German regime, and even more the Dictator Hitler. For example, like Prince Harry in a Nazi uniform, a very Jewish communities have suffered multitudes of discrimination, genocide and struggles. This is another costume to steer directly around.

Black Face

Black Face Costumes, Workplace Diversity, Halloween CostumesAre we really still discussing this one? For good measure let’s throw it in here. Please do not grab a bucket of paint and slab it all over your face or skin to portray yourself as someone (whether in admiration, or not) from another race. We continue to see this happen with celebrities and other individuals. What’s troubling is this originated after the Civil War when actors and actresses demeaned individuals from black communities in theatre production. The audacity is, this is still a modern day controversy that should have long come to an end. Many think of this as a joke at Halloween parties, but this is not a costume, it is a historical offense to African-American and minority communities.
LGBTQIA+ Costumes
LGBTQIA+ Halloween Costumes, Drag Queens, Drag Expression, Diversity and InclusionIf the idea to dress in drag comes to mind, in the widely-known words of Ru Paul, just go ahead and “Sashay Away.” The history of drag is deep and wildly exciting. Debuting in British theaters, male actors played female roles in theatrical productions. The term has carried on to represent the vast community of entertainers, non-binary and gender-queer individuals as well as the trans community. Additionally, this minority group continues to suffer from hate crimes and radical behaviors due to bigotry that still runs rampant. Dressing up as anyone from this community without a vast understanding of its history is an unacceptable mockery.


Disabled or Mentally Ill Patients

Mental Illness Inclusion, Disability Inclusion, Workplace Diversity, Halloween CostumeA shocking costume that still somehow rears its head during Halloween, dressing as a mentally-ill patient or someone who is disabled is ragingly offensive. Individuals with mental illnesses make up over 46.6 million citizens of the United States. In regards to disabled citizens, 1 in 4 individuals live with some sort of disability. Rolling around in wheelchairs or dressing in a straight jacket has the potential to offend millions of people. It’s best to avoid costumes like these as well.
Asian Cultures and Communities
Asian Heritage, Asian Costumes, Sumo Wrestlers, Geishas, Halloween CostumesThere are plenty of beautiful things to admire when thinking of traditional Asian wardrobes. Most commonly we may see a Geisha performing beautiful dances or perhaps Sumo wrestlers displaying an athletic form of art. However, as every other community we’ve discussed, turning Asian traditions and lifestyles into costume inspiration is inappropriate. We often see traditional garments worn my communities they don’t belong to. We also see taped back eyelids and blow-up wrestling suits. If you care about inclusion, these are poor costume choices for your night out on the town.

Religious and Faith Related

Religious Costumes, Halloween Costumes, Diversity and Inclusion

Dressing up as a sexy nun, minister, monk or priest have all become regular costumes we see on All Hallow’s Eve. This typically derives from the religious markers that are often displayed in horror films. However, religion is very personal and unique to every faithful person. The sacrality of religion should never show up on a holiday where the idea is to be scary and shocking. For example, Heidi Klum dressing up as the Goddess Kali which has sparked controversy around her actions and left the entire Hindu community in an uproar. Although it might seem like a hit, it’s actually be a huge turn-off to those in religious communities.

With all that said, there are plenty of costumes out there, and by all means, this is nowhere near all the ones that could offend someone or resonate with a negative tone. Even if a costume centered around these communities or others like them are chosen out of admiration, Halloween isn’t the time to show that appreciation. Celebrate these communities all year round as each of them are important pieces to the diversity in our country and each deserve respect in meaningful ways.

Happy Halloween to everyone, remember Halloween is great when you don’t appropriate.

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Topics: Diveristy Recruiting, Workplace Diversity, Talent Sourcing, Inclusion, Talent Aquisition, Halloween, Halloween Costumes