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Your One Minute Guide to Not Culturally Appropriate Today

People often debate the gray line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. They say Halloween was a holiday created to dress up as someone you aren’t for one day a year (which it was not). They might say that dressing up as a culture is not the same as explicitly degrading it.

I don’t care about those debates. I’m not about to have an academic discussion on whether or not it’s okay for you to wear a sexy kimono or an indigenous headband to a party. If you’re able to take a culture, literally wear it for one night a year, but never have to deal with all the hardships people of that culture deal with the other 364 days, then you need to rethink your costume.

Sure, there are as many blurred lines when it comes to appropriation as there are types of appropriation, but for the purposes of Halloween, all of that doesn’t matter. You might be able to get dreads just for Halloween, but a black person deals with others politicizing their hair and their style all year. You might think it’s funny to wear indigenous-related clothing to that Mod party, while the many Native tribes in America are still having their land encroached upon. You could get away with wearing a sumo wrestler suit, or being a ninja, but I have to deal with people (still) breaking out into the Gangnam Style dance around me, people saying, "ching-chong-chang" to my face, and dealing with all the negative implications of being a Korean-American every day.

By dressing up as a culture you aren’t a part of, you delegitimize how difficult it is not being a “normal” Anglo American in this country. My culture isn’t a costume someone wears, and it definitely isn’t an art project. My culture is rich and diverse and beautiful, but it also is one of hardship, years of not fitting into mainstream American culture, and centuries worth of racism my people faced since the early stages of Korean immigration.

This Halloween, just take one minute, one minute, and ask yourself, this might just be a costume for me, but could it be reality for other people? And if the answer is yes, just put on your favorite jersey instead. I assure you, literally no one will care.

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