“It’s October, and with it comes the annual Halloween tradition of young and old alike dressing up and going out either door-to-door in hopes of scoring serious candy, or having a good time at a costume party. Unfortunately, some traditions surrounding Halloween are plain racist, such as the marketing and selling of ‘costumes’ that ‘represent’, however stereotypically, ‘other’ cultures. Stores shelves, sadly, will be lined with fake head dresses, buck skin outfits, and ‘war’ paint (along with kimonos, turbans, and other ‘representations’ of various cultures) for would be costume wearers. N. Altaha
Excerpt: I am NOT a costume! by Noel Altaha
The following comes from Noel Altaha (White Mountain Apache) who made a video titled ‘I am NOT a costume!’, in response to this racist tradition. Using creative tools to persuade others to agree with your stand was the assignment. My classmates presented great examples, (not texting and driving for example) and I wanted to have others see my view on this holiday. Theories may include self-affirmation theory, central route persuasion, and emotional approach.
Dressing as someone else’s culture has lasting impacts on everyone’s psyche. Granted it could not be explicitly noticeable but there is evidence suggesting the negative effects on stereotyping in social psychology. My research has focused on Native American Historical Trauma (HT) and unresolved grief. According to this theory due to European Colonization there has been a collective and continuous loss in Native communities. The mourning process continues through one’s lifetime and passes onto the next generations, thus the term intergenerational trauma. The symptoms of HT includes but are not limited to low self-esteem, hyper-vigilance, alcoholism, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, etc. etc. etc.
Ignorance of the historic trauma has profound negative impacts on Native peoples suffering or experiencing the historical trauma. So when you wear an “Indian” or ‘Savage’ or ‘Native American’ costume you are basically stereotyping a culture, you are also making their culture a historical reference that sends a message to everyone: Native Americans no longer exist, only in history books and old western films. You are not recognizing the present day Native people who are professors, doctors, actors, and nurses who still identify with their Native culture and are successfully existing in the modern world.
I certainly do not dress as a white person for Halloween and have not ever seen the costume “colonizer” at my local retail stores and if it did I would think there would be letters from upset offended white people. I do not want to make this all about a race issue because it more than that. This is about respecting oneself through becoming educated and it is about healing for a people who have and continue to suffer from the impacts of HT.”