Organizations emphasize cultural mindfulness during Halloween season

The Asian American Association partners with Four Directions to define and examine appropriation in American culture.
The Asian American Association at the University of Missouri hosts a meeting in Memorial Union Oct. 10, 2019, to discuss the difference in cultural appropriation vs. appreciation in Halloween costumes. The Association, alongside organization Four Directions, used examples like the movie “White Chicks” to discuss what costumes could possibly be damaging to minority cultures. Courtesy of Facebook via @Mizzouaaa

The Asian American Association hosted its monthly general body meeting Thursday, Oct. 10 in collaboration with Four Directions to discuss the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.

The group participated in a game of “This or That”, deciphering and debating whether “White Chicks,” Halloween costumes, blackface and dreadlocks were appropriation or appreciation.

AAA defines appropriation as “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of customs, practices and ideas of one culture by members of another, typically more dominant culture.” Cultural adoption was considered appreciation when elements of a culture were being used while honoring the sources they originated from.

Most of the group maintained that nearly all of the topics from their game appropriated minority cultures. Even opposers qualified that dreadlocks still had implications of appropriation. AAA Advocacy Chair Maleigha Michael was one of the leaders of the discussion.

“I think that if a culture is being taken for reasons other than the cultural background they were made for, such as fashion, even if it’s unintentionally appropriated, it’s still appropriation,” Michael said.

Throughout the meeting Michael emphasized that the concept of appropriation is relative to the cultural composition of a country. Adoption of other cultural practices is mainly considered appropriation when a member of the dominant race endorses them. This is because when a minority race partakes in the cultural normalities of the dominant race, it is more assimilation than appropriation.

“I think being able to give those cultures a voice is important, and it goes along with allyship,” Michael said. “Where if you’re the dominant culture, and you know something is wrong, you should give them a platform to speak about it, and I think that’s where we can start appreciating it. And then, much farther after that, we will be able to assimilate it hopefully in a non-offensive way.”

The meeting was strategically planned around Halloween when MU students will be planning their costumes in hopes of standing out. However, costumes involving other cultures including geishas, Native American garments and mariachi players are cultural appropriation by the group’s definition, especially when hypersexualized.

“If it's something like Halloween that is premeditated on what you’re going to dress as, I think that’s kind of on you to research and make sure you’re not being offensive,” Michael said. “But if you accidentally do it, I think all you can do is learn from it.”

Next month, AAA is focusing on mental health awareness for their general body meeting to assist students on coping with stress.

Edited by Ben Scott | bscott@themaneater.com

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