Our over-politicized society has managed to turn yet another enjoyable activity into a lecture about progressivism.
It’s October and Fall is in the air. Pumpkin spice products have been marketed, ad nauseam. With Fall, comes all varieties of holidays including but not limited to Halloween. For some miraculous reason, costumes have become a political issue. No longer can a young girl dress as her favorite Disney character without fear of scorn. This scorn originates from individuals, who believe in the pseudo-science of “cultural appropriation.” Cambridge Dictionary defines cultural appropriation as, “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” Our over-politicized society has managed to turn yet another enjoyable activity into a lecture about progressivism.
In recent years, college newspapers have covered cultural appropriation at length as it relates to Halloween costumes. The National Review provides some examples. “At Washington State University, the Social Justice Peer Educators Group held an event titled ‘We’re a Culture, Not a Costume’ to teach people that costumes that culturally appropriate are ‘harmful.’” Amelia Hamilton continues to say, “can’t tell if your costume is racist? Need your college to do the thinking for you? UMass Amherst’s Social Diversity Office put together a great little flowchart last year, the Simple Costume Racism Evaluation and Assessment Meter…which helps you determine the ‘threat level’ of your costume.”
In The Washington Post, Erika Christakis writes, “The community’s response seemed, to many outside the Yale bubble, a baffling overreaction. Nearly a thousand students, faculty and deans called for my and my husband’s removal from our jobs and campus home. Some demanded not only apologies for any unintended racial insensitivity…as well as advance warning of my appearances in the dining hall so that students accusing me of fostering violence wouldn’t be disturbed by the sight of me.”
It is important to understand that Mrs. Christakis merely sent an email urging Yale University students to analyze critically the Yale University official guidelines on appropriate Halloween costumes. These social justice advocates are well-intentioned, no doubt. As a country founded on the premise that we are all immigrants, it is undoubtedly true that we should acknowledge and respect all different cultures. Simultaneously, I would argue that there is a better platform for cultural education. Colleges offer a seemingly endless list of courses and electives, so why not promote these educational topics there? It’s possible that most students would rather just enjoy the holidays and celebratory occasions than focus on every possible “microaggression.”
Embracing culture is key to the American experiment, and our society represents these various cultures. A casual stroll through any major city is a prime example of this phenomenon. Cultural heritage is extremely important as it provides a unifying mechanism for individuals. New York City is one such example, as there are nearly 200 different languages spoken and 40 percent of the population is foreign-born. One might ask how so many different cultures can coexist in one major city, but this is the story of the American people. Regardless of cultural tradition, as President Trump says, “We must remember this truth: no matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first.” America is great because America is good. We are great because we embrace cultural diversity, rather than ethno-centrism. We embrace culture, and we do not seek to limit freedom of speech because it offends us.
I do not completely dismiss the social justice advocates attempts to address cultural stereotyping. I do, however, believe that we ought to embrace our cultural diversity and allow individuals freely to understand culture, without scolding them. Cultural immersion is the key to understanding our complex society, and we ought to do more to educate ourselves. Lecturing college students about Halloween costumes is not the place to address cultural stereotyping, and we must continue to voice our opposition to these attempts to smother the Halloween celebrations.
Mitchell Nemeth is pursuing his Masters of Law at the University of Georgia. He has been featured in the Red & Black and The Arch Conservative. His Twitter handle is @mnemeth88.