This past Wednesday, Oct. 24, the Office of Equity and Inclusion held a discussion on cultural appropriation, in light of Halloween. This event was part of a series called “Spilling the Tea on Diversity,” which explores various topics relating to diversity and inclusion and seeks to educate students in an open dialogue that is welcoming to all questions and opinions, barring that they do not disrespect anyone's identity. The QC had a chance to sit down with the event’s two coordinators, first-year Diversity Ambassador (DA) Kea Minami and second-year DA Cole DiGrazia, to discuss to purpose and outcome of the event.
The discussion opened with the viewing of a Teen Vogue video on appropriative Halloween costumes and interviewed people of that culture to get their take on the costumes. Some of the costumes discussed were from “chola culture, Native Hawaiian or kanaka maoli culture, as well as Native American and African American,” according to Minami. After viewing the video, the group discussed their responses to it. As Minami explains, “some people had very personal stories and were very touched with some of the narratives because that was their own lives, as well, and it connected to them.” However, not all present were so familiar with topic. She continued by saying that she noticed “in the responses that people were surprised that Native Hawaiian culture was on there, because a lot of people don't know the history and that Native Hawaiian people were… basically forced to assimilate and [had] to adopt Western culture.” As the facilitators explained, the diversity of knowledge and opinion in the group lead to a richer discussion and a chance for students to grown together.
The event wrapped up with the student breaking off into small groups to answer questions on a worksheet about the topic. According to DiGrazia, the questions ranged from “define cultural appropriation in your own words,” to “what are things from your own culture that could be seen as cultural appropriation,” to “how is this harmful to people’ and “how does it display the power dynamics and racism within our society?” Many students were able to respond with personal experiences of witnessing such costumes, listing costumes such as chola/o and religious themed costumes, and ultimately agreed that they “appropriate a culture that people don't understand the ramifications of; that this is a reality that some people actually have to face,” as DiGrazia put it.
Students walked away with a handout of a flowchart on how to choose a costume that is not appropriative or offensive, as well as some new insight on how to be sensitive to other cultures, and not just on Halloween.