Offensive costumes reflect badly on the university



What not to wear: Should universities punish students for offensive Halloween garb?


Occasionally, actors utilize their fame to shine a spotlight on controversial issues.

Leonardo DiCaprio dedicated a portion of his Oscar acceptance speech to climate change. More recently, actors like Shailene Woodley and Chris Hemsworth have spoken out against the Dakota Access Pipeline. But Hemsworth took it a step further and apologized for wearing an offensive Native American costume at a Halloween party the year before.

Meanwhile, college students do not seem fully cognizant that their personal actions reflect on the prestige of institution they attend.

When students trot around as “Sexy Pocahontas,” or in “Basically-a-Bathrobe Kimonos” or any other costume of politically incorrect nature, the reputation of the university is affected negatively.

Furthermore, it perpetuates cultural appropriation and signifies a lack of respect. These acts of ignorance cannot be permitted, and offenders should have disciplinary action brought against them, because cultures are not costumes.

A college crackdown on controversial costumes is not a new phenomenon. Last year, Yale University and University of Washington sent out e-mails advising students to be conscious of their costumes.

Last week, a student wore an offensive costume to a University of Wisconsin-Madison football game and was asked to either change or leave. Just as there are considerate ways to dress for Halloween, there are considerate ways to reprimand offenders.

Even local education institutions in South Dakota and surrounding states have been taking precautions against cultural appropriation.

The University of Sioux Falls mascot used to be the Braves, depicting Native Americans, but it was changed in 1979 to the Cougars. The University of North Dakota changed its Fighting Sioux mascot to the Fighting Hawks last year. And Watertown High School celebrated its last KiYi, a homecoming ceremony based off Native American traditions, in 2015 after controversy rose of its inappropriate use of the Native American culture.

If mascots and homecoming facades are deemed stereotypical and unacceptable, why should racist statements in the form of costumes be allowed?

Dressing up as a Native American, a Turkish belly dancer or an Arab Malik for sport encourages the perseverance of harmful stereotypes.

When cultures are simplified, the fine details, traditions, rituals and sacredness are lost. It also prolongs the “us versus them” mentality, placing one group or ethnicity above another.

Stereotypes are already rife in our society, especially with particular messages from Donald Trump, so the accumulation of similar actions from subtle racism contributes to the increase in racial profiling and xenophobia.

Proudly displaying “politically incorrect” costumes is only the gateway to larger injustices and prejudice. Students should not feel comfortable disrespecting cultures and letting their disrespect reflect on the university they attend.

Therefore, institutions should be able to punish students for wearing offensive costumes. If they don’t, it’ll only shine a bad light on the institution.

Destiny Pinder-Buckley is a freshmen English and international affairs major from Mitchell, S.D.

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