Students at Michigan State University are getting an education in how they can avoid offending people with culturally inappropriate Halloween costumes in what’s becoming a new tradition that undermines the university’s own identity.
The unsolicited advice on what to wear on fright night appeared on message boards in campus residences this week to help students answer the question “Is your Halloween costume racist?” according to The Morning Watch, the school’s conservative news site.
What’s become an annual reminder from MSU’s Residence Education and Housing Services spells out the difference between “cultural appropriation vs. appreciation.” When students are selecting a Halloween costume, REHS wants them to ask themselves, “do you belong to that group of people?”
If the answer is “no,” then it’s racist, according to MSU officials.
It doesn’t matter if the get-up is humorous or sexy, because it’s offensive to use “those peoples’ human elements … for the sake of bringing us laughter or making us feel more exotic,” REHS advises.
“These are people’s lives … they are not stereotypes,” according to the posters. “They can’t take off a costume.”
“How would you like it if someone turned you into a costume?” MSU questions, according to The Morning Watch.
It’s the third year MSU officials pushed the program on students in the weeks ahead of Halloween.
The boards offer numerous examples of “hypersexualized racism,” like women in two piece Native American costumes, as well as other “costume fails” depicting Mexican and Japanese cultures that should be off limits.
Sombreros and mustaches, Nazi gear, Rastafarians, illegal aliens, Middle Eastern attire, and other “racially, culturally, or ethnically based” costumes are also a no-no, REHS advises.
The posters claim it’s also racist to dress up as Jay-Z and Beyonce, or Kanye and Kim West.
According to MSU, students should understand that cultural appropriation involves “Western appropriations of non-Western or non-white forms” that carries with it “the connotation of exploitation and dominance,” The Morning Watch reports.
Cultural appreciation, MSU explains, is “learning about another culture with respect and courtesy.”
Steve Bertolini, a senior International Relations major, offered a different definition for cultural appropriation at MSU: “A dangerous term that undermines free speech and expression of ideas.”
It also undermines MSU’s own identity, he argued.
“Suppressing any costume idea because it reflects a culture is ridiculous,” Bertolini said. “Should we abandon Sparty as to not offend those of Greek origin?”
Sparty, the MSU Spartans’ wildly popular mascot, is a muscular male Spartan warrior dressed in stylized, cartoonized Greek battle gear.
Other MSU students, like freshman Clara Peters, think it’s wrong for the university to label students who mimic popular culture or television characters as racists.
“I do not think MSU has a role in determining what students should avoid wearing for Halloween,” Peters told The Morning Watch. “Just because a student chooses to wear a costume based on a race or culture does not mean that they lack respect for diversity and inclusion.”