“Mom, I Want to be a Native American for Halloween!”

by Camille Cournoyer on October 20, 2016 - 8:54pm

Halloween is coming, meaning that frenetic research for the perfect costume might begin soon. However, racism and stereotypes are often spread through these disguises as many are unaware that these clothes provide of a bad representation of certain cultural groups.

The article “Freshers: is your fancy dress costume racist?” describes an example of implicit racism. Most people do not mean to harm when they disguise as a Native person, a cowboy or a Jamaican. However, they contribute to the spreading of stereotypes, which gradually become socially accepted. The population supports certain labels for the sake of humor. According to Nianias, these costumes are a form of cultural appropriation, which is a type of implicit racism. However, the author values intentions a lot. She argues that if one’s intention is to celebrate a culture rather that mocking it than wearing such disguises is acceptable. Nevertheless, I do not believe that intentions should be used to justify a fundamentally incorrect action. I believe that if a costume is unable to represent a certain group’s culture correctly, then implicit racism is reinforced. Indeed, the person wearing the costume might know he/she is spreading the wrong message, but chances are people who will admire the costume do not.

The article and the author’s arguments remind me of the desire I had to disguise as a Native American for Halloween when I was 10 years old. To me, wearing such an outfit represented a way to publicly show my profound interest for this culture. Halloween was a perfect occasion to do so as I could not have dressed that way at school. Therefore, here I was, on October 31st, very proud to wear a suede dress and a headband with a red feather. Many years later, when I was 15 years old, I went on a trip in northern Canada and in Alaska. I still remember the first time we met a Native person who taught us traditional dance. When he entered the room, I was surprised to see him wear a pair of jeans. As the trip went on and we met more Native people, I realized that the image I was given of Native Americans as I grew up was inappropriate. The members of this cultural group are romanticized into characters whose habits did not evolve through time and I once contributed to the reinforcement of these stereotypes. Furthermore, a Native men told us that the designs on Halloween costumes do not signify anything, while the ones on their traditional clothes all have an important meaning. I came to the conclusion that wearing these clothes cannot be a way to demonstrate one’s appreciation of a culture. The representation we make of their nation is disrespectful. Nowadays, if people want to dress like modern Native Americans, all they have to do is to wear their common clothes. 

Word count: 473


List of Reference


Nianias, H. (2016, September 14). Freshers : is your fancy dress costume racist?. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/sep /14/freshers-is-your-fancy-dress-costume-racist



I think this article is really important to read because yes halloween costumes can spread stereotypes and they have just been accepted throughout the years. This post drew my attention because it is something that some people don't really think about, how their halloween costume will be perceived. I think its important to take into account what could be offensive to some people but i also think that you can't please everybody and no matter what you wear somebody is going to have an opinion about it. I also agree that implicit racism is implied when a persons culture is misrepresented.

This topic of racism and Halloween costumes is a tricky topic to tackle. In which I have mixed views coming from both sides. On one hand, I can see how dressing up as an Indian, Jamaican or even in a Japanese kimono for Halloween can be seen as offensive or politically correct. Just like you, I dressed up as an Indian for Halloween when I was younger too and I didn't think anything of it. I feel like this wasn't a problem ten years ago, but now I don’t even see Indians or any other ethnic oriented costumes advertised in Halloween costume catalogs, online or in stores. I think this is because American is becoming too politically correct on touchy subjects, hence race. Furthermore, I agree with you that traditional dress or other forms of expressing one's nationality should not be tampered with and treated in a mocking manner. I can see how that could be offensive. Race is an individual, not a Halloween costume. On the other hand, I feel like their are much worse things in the world concerning prejudices and discrimination. I think what separates this apart from other forms of racism is that it is not intentional. These are little kids dressing up for Halloween. If I asked my eight year old cousin to think of a Native American, the Disney princess Pocahontas will most likely pop up in her head, not an average person in jeans. Hence, were taught about these “stereotypes” at a very young age. Lastly, I Like how you mentioned some of your own experiences with this topic in your post and I was interested to read more in depth of your analysis. In conclusion, I feel like any Halloween costume can offend someone, even if it's not ethnic based. Now thanks to you, I see new views and another side of the argument that I thought I would never of agreed to before.

About the author