Costume conundrum: culturally appropriated costumes are offensive

Students to be well aware some costumes are completely unacceptable


Halloween is the perfect time to show your creative side when it comes to costumes, but culturally offensive costumes aren’t creative – they’re downright inappropriate.

What you and your friends might think is cute and clever can be extremely uncomfortable to an entire group of people. Because of this Halloween costume phenomenon, it’s pretty hard to determine what is actually “inappropriate” on Halloween. The editors at The Spectrum feel few things cross the line, but one that does would definitely be culturally appropriated costumes. Those who wear black face, dress as Native Americans, Egyptians, Geishas or any other culture don’t understand how it impacts members of that group.

These costumes are not acceptable and it would be extremely disappointing to see UB students engage in such behavior without thinking of their friends, peers and professors.

Yet there are still people who don’t think these costumes are distasteful.

Last year, Penn State University had an ongoing debate on whether or not a student’s “Jager bomber” costume was offensive.

The student dressed up in Middle Eastern attire and strapped Jagermeister bottles and Red Bull cans around his body to look like bombs.

Some students argued it was “for fun.” But out of the million possible costume ideas, dressing up like a suicide bomber was the winner?

Not only is it offensive to Muslims, but it’s offensive to the soldiers risking their lives every day and citizens who have died in terror attacks.

As college students, you would think staying away from these costumes is a no-brainer. Yet here we are another year later, reminding people that there is a fine line between creative and disrespectful costumes.

There’s a difference between culture and a character. It’s one thing to dress as Princess Jasmine, a completely different thing to dress as a Middle Eastern woman. A specific character has a story that distinguishes them.

But changing your skin color or facial features to mimic features of another nationality is unacceptable. Many do not realize what they’re doing and just put on the costume amongst their friends, but the impact is real.

This doesn’t mean students need to worry so much about what they’re wearing, it just means being mindful. We are already mindful of others in our daily lives, so there’s no reason to act differently on the holiday.

Someone’s culture, language and skin color isn’t a fashion statement – it’s unique to a specific group of people and should not be made a joke.

The editorial board can be reached at