Column: Be what you want this Halloween, as long as it’s not racist

It’s almost Halloween — everyone is browsing Pinterest and stopping in every costume store for last-minute costume ideas. It’s the one day of the year it’s acceptable to dress up and take on the role of another person or thing.

Halloween is by far one of my favorite holidays. It gives me a chance to be creative, wear those fake eyelashes that are too dramatic to ever wear on an actual day and eat copious amounts of chocolate without any regret.

I had always heard of cultural appropriation, but it really clicked when I saw a “Sexy Trail of Tears” costume in a store. It made me literally take a deep-breath in both shock and disgust. Sexy Trail of Tears? The Trail of Tears is a historical moment that is remembered for it’s devastating effect — hence why it’s the Trail of TEARS. This made me really open my eyes to all of the other stereotypical/appropriative/racist costumes that people wear.

The author of “Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law,” defined cultural appropriation as follows:

“Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”

While browsing “DIY Costumes” on Pinterest, I saw a costume for a “refugee and her baby.” You can’t make these things up. It was a white woman, wearing basically a sheet that covered everything except her eyes — pretending to wear a niqab — with a brown-skinned doll baby in her hand. She was posing for a picture at a party, smiling, looking like she was having a great time.

That’s when I got angry. Refugees are people that are forced to leave their home and country in times of tragedy and disaster. These people are escaping a crisis, often separated from their families, denied by citizens of other countries — and you’re dressing up as a refugee for Halloween?

I also saw a “Jager Bomber” costume splattered all over the internet, where people took what they thought was a funny twist on the idea of the alcoholic shot, a “Jager Bomb,” and wore bottles of Jager and Redbull strapped to their chest, mimicking a bomb, along with a beard and a turban.

For anyone who has ever considered wearing this — it is not funny. Reinforcing stereotypes of Arabs/Muslims being terrorists is. Not. Funny. If you think it’s funny, try educating yourself on the horrible prejudice Muslims face and maybe you’ll reconsider.

You put on a niqaab when it’s for a cute costume — but you get scared and think women are oppressed and terrorists when they wear a niqaab for their religion.

A perfect example of this is when Khloe Kardashian and Kendall Jenner were in Dubai. The reality TV stars put on a niqaab and took some selfies, Khloe’s labeled with the caption “habibi love.” This is a perfect way to show the difference of cultural appreciation versus cultural appropriation.

Culture appreciation is when Angelina Jolie wore a hijab when she went and worked with refugees in Pakistan. She wore traditional Pakistani dress to show modesty and respect while working with children and families in this country.

Cultural appropriation is when Khloe Kardashian wore a bedazzled niqab for her Instagram selfies, when it’s not required to wear a niqab in Dubai. She also, previously before that photo, uploaded photos with it around her neck, without it on. She held it up tight around her face and took selfies with her sister, too. This is not the first time she has been guilty of cultural appropriation — she wore a Native American headdress for Coachella, uploaded a picture calling herself “Sheik Pussy” on Halloween and wore corn-rows in her hair multiple times.

Sure, it can be “flattering” in a sense that your culture and traditions are so beautiful that people want to dress up as them. I get that. If you want to dress up as an Indian, consider Pocahontas. If you want to dress up wearing a hijab and other elements of Arab culture — dress up as Princess Jasmine. These are actual characters with stories behind them, not just adopting different parts of someone’s culture that you find sexy.

Because, you know what’s not sexy? The prejudice against Muslim women when they have on a hijab. Appropriating a garment that is heavily stereotyped and often associated with “terrorism.” Wearing a scarf that covers everything but your eyes with a “sexy” costume, when women wear a niqab to show their modesty, even though they’re often discriminated against/made fun of for it.

You know what’s not sexy? Getting henna tattoos because they’re cool — with no previous history of what henna was used for, which historically was used to dip people’s feet in in countries like Africa and the Middle East, where it was hot, so they could walk on the hot dessert sand.

You know what’s not sexy? Getting clip-in dreadlocks because you think they’re “cool” for festivals, when people with dreads have been discriminated against for being “dirty.”

You know what IS sexy? Being educated on the history and stories of other cultures and the traditions that molded the people of those cultures into who they are today. Being appreciative and using the power of your voice to bring awareness to those who aren’t as privileged.

If you want to appreciate the different cultures of the world — educate yourself, and do it in an appropriate/respectable way. Don’t do it for Instagram likes. Don’t do it for Halloween. Don’t do it because you’re Khloe Kardashian.

Karima Neghmouche can be contacted at [email protected].