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

by Camille Cournoyer on Octobre 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. 

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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


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