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AT IT AGAIN: MSU Instructing Students What to Wear for Halloween

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

“'Suppressing any costume idea because it reflects a culture is ridiculous,” and suggested, “should we abandon Sparty as to not offend those of Greek origin?”'

Author: Sergei Kelley

MSU display boards ask, “Is your Halloween costume racist?” Once again, MSU is instructing students how to prevent appropriating cultures during Halloween.

The boards, placed by Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS) discuss “Cultural Appropriation vs. Appreciation.” Guides on the boards state how students can prevent being racist and ask, “do you belong to that group of people?”

The racism guide, published by College Humor, first asks, “does it involve the use of blackface?” Furthermore, it is racist if the costume includes a Swastika, or if it involves a minority group "that you are not.” Wearing a sombrero and moustache are included as racist.

Similar to boards placed last year, after asking the reader “Is my costume offensive?” MSU prompts the reader to ask themselves: “Do you belong to that group of people,” “Would you wear that costume around that group of people,” “Is your costume racially, culturally, or ethnically based?” and finally, “Is your costume funny or sexy?”

Calling it “hypersexualized racism,” MSU shows pictures of variations of female two piece Native American costumes. They claim these types of costumes only use “those peoples’ human elements...for the sake of bringing us laughter or making us feel more exotic.”

For “costume fails” MSU depicts Native American, Mexican,and Japanese costumes. Such costumes are “racially, culturally, or ethnically based.”

Before stating on the boards that “there is hope” for students to wear costumes correctly, MSU further describes why you shouldn’t wear costumes belonging to certain people groups.

MSU states, next to a picture of Muslim women, “these are people’s lives...they are not stereotypes. They can’t take off a costume.” Then the viewer is asked, “How would you feel if someone turned you into a costume?”

Showing the stark difference between cultural appropriation vs. appreciation, MSU claims cultural appropriation is, “used to describe Western appropriations of non-Western or non-white forms.” And furthermore, it “carries the connotation of exploitation and dominance.”

Conversely, cultural appreciation is “learning about another culture with respect and courtesy.”MSU student Steve Bertolini describes cultural appropriation as “a dangerous term that undermines free speech and expression of ideas.”

He further told The Morning Watch, “suppressing any costume idea because it reflects a culture is ridiculous,” and suggested, “should we abandon Sparty as to not offend those of Greek origin?”

Bertolini is a senior studying International Relations.

Clara Peters, a James Madison freshman, told The Morning Watch, “I do not think that MSU has a role in determining what students should avoid wearing for Halloween.”

She further said, “Just because a student chooses to wear a costume based on a race or culture does not mean that they lack respect for diversity and inclusion.”

In addition to the cultural appropriation boards from last year, during the 2017-2018 school year the University held “MRULE (Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience) Cultural Appropriation & Halloween event” and a “Cultural Appropriation Campaign.”

The Morning Watch did not hear back from the MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives in time for publication.

Contributor: Sergei Kelley

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