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MSU: Sombreros a Racist Element


"The University continued their cultural appropriation crusade on Friday, October 19. 'I'm being asked by my department to talk about a particular topic: cultural appropriation'"


Author: Sergei Kelley



A Michigan State University department places Halloween bulletin boards titled, “A Culture is not a Costume,” where the addition of a sombrero to a taco costume is boldly marked “racist.” A guide, “Is Your Halloween Costume Racist?” is included.



The bulletin boards that features many subtopics under “Cultural Appropriation vs Appreciation,” were placed by the University’s Residence Hospitality and Services department. The boards are found throughout many of the University’s dorms.



The Morning Watch reached out to Paulette Russel, the University’s Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives director. On behalf of the University, Russel explained in a phone call, “A space that is so diverse, tensions arise when certain things happen through costumes,” and that, “(the) poster is to help students in residence halls to understand why certain depictions might be offensive if someone and if someone takes offense they have a reason.”


Russel also responded to possible consequences of a student who violates statements on the bulletin boards. She stated, “extent to wear a costume certainly is the student’s right.”

Faculty Associate of the Intercultural Dialogues Program Donna Kaplowitz told the Morning Watch she was not aware of the boards across campus. She presumed the boards, “are not instructing not what should be worn, but educate on how certain costumes are perceived by others.”


The University continued their cultural appropriation crusade on Friday, October 19. “I'm being asked by my department to talk about a particular topic: cultural appropriation,” said a Holmes Hall dormitory resident assistant (RA) in his floor-wide email.



In an on-background quotes-allowed interview with the RA, he told the Morning Watch, “I didn’t want to send the email.” He further continued, “the cultural appropriation notion is problematic. In discussion with other peers we found everyone has different definitions of cultural appropriation.”


About what the proper college environment should be he said, “for you to learn and think. You might be offensive or become offended.”


The Morning Watch reached out to the College Republicans at Michigan State University who were concerned with the University’s pre-Halloween actions. “The university goes against their own beliefs…that during this time of year it is okay (for students) to make assumptions about their peers,” said Finance Chair Alex Overholser.


The Morning Watch reached out to the International Students Association and La Comunidad Latino-Americana at MSU but did not receive comment.


In an event schedule for the 2017-2018 school year the University held “MRULE (Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience) Cultural Appropriation & Halloween event” and “Cultural Appropriation Campaign” within campus residence halls.


Contributor Sergei Kelley

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