We’re a Culture, Not a Costume Campaign Features Native American

We’re a Culture, Not a Costume Campaign Features Native American

By: 
ICTMN Staff
10/27/11

Go to any popular Halloween costume website or store and you’ll see a section of “Indian” costumes for men and women—anything from an Indian Maiden to a Tribal Princess and Indian Warrior. This cultural appropriation doesn’t just affect Native Americans though, and the STARS of Ohio University have something to say about it.

Students Teaching About Racism in Society recently launched its “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume Campaign” to educate Halloween revelers on what they are doing when they dress in blackface, a geisha costume, as an Indian or a terrorist—degrading an entire culture. The posters point out that "This is not who I am, and this is not okay."

STARS said the mission behind the posters was to “educate and create dialogue,” and mission accomplished. The poster campaign has gone viral. STARS president Sarah Williams’ blog post on tumblr garnered more than 34,000 likes and reblogs for the posters, and news organizations like CNN and CBCNews Canada have picked up the story.

"There have been a few blackface incidents within the past couple of years on our campus – one in which white students hosted a 'black party' in which attendees painted their skin brown, showed up in grills and “urban clothing,” and at which they served chicken and watermelon—happened just last year," said Taylor See, one of the STARS event coordinators.

According to CBCNews, Canadian reactions were varied from congratulating the students for the campaign to accusing them of making something out of nothing.

"During Halloween, we see offensive costumes. We don't like it, we don't appreciate it. We wanted to do a campaign about it saying, 'Hey, think about this. It's offensive,'" Williams, told CNN. "The best way to get rid of stereotypes and racism is to have a discussion and raise awareness, which is what we want to do with this campaign."

"Our main hope for these posters was very simple: We wanted to get students to think. We understand that cultural costumes and blackface are not intended to hurt most of the time. However, the fact of the matter is that they do," See said. "They are subtle manifestations of very ignorant archetypes, and we just wanted to make people aware of the possible implications of their costumes before they wore them out and about."

Want to see more Native American costumes—both store bought and homemade? Check out this photo gallery of party-goers in West Hollywood.

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