Political Correctness and Cultural Appropriation Panic Are Killing Halloween

College campuses must stop humoring the idea that offensive costumes should be banned.


AFLO Sports/Newscom

Australian actor Chris Hemsworth is very sorry for dressing up as Native American.

"I was stupidly unaware of the offense this may have caused and the sensitivity around this issue," he recently wrote on Instagram. "I sincerely and unreservedly apologize to all First Nations people for this thoughtless action."

For those who think they were owned an apology, it's actually overdue: Hemsworth donned the offensive costume at a New Year's Eve party last year. But now he's apparently more enlightened about how cultural appropriation further marginalizes oppressed communities—like the people at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. And he's not alone: actress Hillary Duff just apologized for this year's offensive couple costume—Duff and her boyfriend celebrated the holiday this weekend as a Native American and a Pilgrim.

Anyway, I'm still waiting for Hemsworth to issue an apology for a much more significant and repeated act of cultural appropriation: his portrayal of the Norse god Thor in the Marvel movies of the same name. Hemsworth has donned a Thor costume for four separate films, raking in millions of dollars each time. These movies shamelessly appropriate and exploit Norse mythology—the religious traditions of the people of medieval Scandinavia—for profit. Hemsworth claims Germanic heritage, but there's no way to prove his ancestors actually worshipped the gods he claims to represent. And in any case, he lent credibility to a film produced by many non-Germanic people, starring many non-Germanic people, and consumed by many non-Germanic people.

Indeed, if we believe in the doctrine of cultural appropriation—that it is wrong to portray or engage in traditions that disparage a culture, or pertain to a culture other than one's own—then all Halloween costumes are offensive, because Halloween was itself appropriate from Irish culture. As Jason Brennan wrote at Bleeding Heart Libertarians:

A year ago, lecturer Erika Christakis wrote an email criticizing Yale's attempt to control students' Halloween costumes. Christakis suggested that students, as adults, are capable of policing themselves, that the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable costumes is contestable, and that Halloween is holiday meant to allow people to indulge in certain transgressions. Students harassed her until she left her job. You can watch here as a mob of students at Yale University surrounded her husband, Nicholas Christakis, to browbeat him into submission after he stood up for Erika.

What's ironic about all of this is that almost all of these Yale students, though desperate to prevent racist and insensitive cultural appropriation, would later go on to engage in insensitive, racist cultural appropriation themselves, as they have done year after year since early childhood.

Let's be clear: Halloween is for Irish people and for Irish people only. Or, more precisely, it's for people who are of sufficiently robust Gaelic descent. If you are not Irish, but you celebrate Halloween, then you are engaging in racist cultural appropriation.

Brennan points this out, I presume, not because he actually wants to discourage people from celebrating Halloween, but because he wants them to understand how completely illogical the entire notion of cultural appropriation is. Everybody steals from other cultures all the time. It's natural and impossible to avoid.

Unfortunately, the campus far-left has become obsessed with the idea that cultural inter-mixing is a bad thing. Lately, students have decided that university administrators should discourage cultural appropriation, or prohibit it outright—especially on Halloween. Campus after campus has released guides, warnings, or outright bans on "offensive" costumes. Administrators are now telling students to file reports if see someone engaging in act of cultural appropriation.

As I wrote in a recent column for The Daily Beast:

Take Tufts University, where student-leaders of Greek life on campus are particularly worried about costume-related sanctions. They have good reason to be concerned: the university is watching.

"We encourage all students that feel like they have encountered someone who is wearing an inappropriate and offensive costume to please file a report," said Dean of Students Mary Pat McMahon, according to a letter sent to the Greek community. ..

Greek leaders would like to err on the side of caution—how's that for Halloween spirit?—and have asked members of their community to eschew "inappropriate, offensive, and appropriative costumes." Cultural appropriation—dressing up like someone from a different race—is especially frowned upon. But that's not all: costumes "relating to tragedy, controversy, or acts of violence" are also frowned upon.

One wonders what's left. Many students who heed the above guidelines are presumably restricted from dressing up as samurais, hombres, geishas, belly dancers, Vikings, ninjas, rajas, French maids, Bollywood dancers, Rastafarians, Pocahontas, Aladdin, Zorro, or Thor.

Garden-variety Halloween costumes—vampires, zombies, etc.—would seem to run afoul of the prohibition on "tragedy and acts of violence." And this year's topical costumes—Harambe, Cecil the Lion, Donald Trump—invoke controversy, so they're out, too. …

I can understand why students might take offense at blackface, which has a specific, racist historical context. But there's nothing intrinsically evil about pretending to be someone else for one day of the year, especially if the costume isn't intended to disparage or mock anyone's ethnicity. Shouldn't the default position of an enlightened populace be that culture is fluid and belongs to no one, that we are all individuals with the license to explore our interests, and that everyone should be encouraged to briefly appropriate the most interesting aspects of any culture to which they are drawn?

Today is probably the last day for Halloween parties, costumes, and activities until next year. But lest we forget: cultural appropriation arguably gained power as a sacred doctrine of campus censors in 2016 (even though 2015 was really awful on that front, too). At this rate, colleges might just kill off Halloween entirely.

NEXT: Lower Taxes Will Help Bring Legal Weed out of the Black Market

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Political Correctness and Cultural Appropriation Panic Are Killing Halloween

    If that was all they're killing I'd worry a lot less.

    1. Start working from home! Great job for students...Making more income $97 a hour from computer at home. My sisters friend has been earning 20k for a months and she works about 15 hour a working week. I make 12k last month, it is in real easy and meaningful , here you can checking..
      Go this web site... http://www.Trends88.Com

  2. Culture itself is appropriation.

    Did you invent the language you speak?

    1. *grunts in agreement*

      1. ooga, booga!

    2. Evidence-based understandings of history are racist.

        1. bur

  3. When you truly want to oppress a people, you eliminate all mention of them from history. Since even mentioning say "redskins" or "braves" for a team, or wearing a native costume, no matter how sincerely you appreciate indians, is offensive, then these people want Indians to be forgotten. Erased. Get rid of all the indian names for towns.
    Perhaps one can wear a costume that says "I love indians" but who wants to wear propaganda? And how is that fun?
    And to make it even funnier, since you mentioned Thor, many of the Norse mythology/religion stories had already been influenced by Christianity by the time they were written down. Odin, I believe, gets crucified in one tale.

    1. I live in San Jose, it's named after a freakin' Saint. That's like totally separation of church and state, right?

      I can't even.

      1. I'm sure they will get around to purging religious names eventually.

  4. These Social Justice Bullies are just using this to try and obtain power over other people, despite their pathetic failures as adults. If this were 100 years ago, they would be bible-thumping prohibitionists

    1. Some of whom would've been tarred and feathered and run outta town, Too few people are willing to tell these idiots to shut up.

      1. but where does one obtain tar & feathers these days?

        1. You have to file a petition with the EPA for the use of petroleum products, pay a $1,000.00 permit fee, swear not to heat it above a certain temperature to minimize emissions (just enough to spread on, not any hotter), and pay expenses for an EPA monitor to attend the ceremony. For the feathers, you have to follow a similar procedure at the agriculture department AND the FDA (just in case any of the feathers came from a food chicken). Then, in case the tar accidentally does get too hot, and might explode, you need one more permit from BATFE. Oh, yes; you also need a certificate from PETA that the feathers come from a free range chicken that died of natural causes.
          See, piece of cake!

        2. Invest. It's a growth industry.

  5. Tonight I will perform my annual ritual of passing out candy cigarettes to the trick-or-treaters who show up at my door.

    1. You win Halloween...

    2. I'm guessing they're a little stale. Has anybody even made those in twenty years?

      1. My mistake, they are still readily available.

      2. Available at Rocket Fizz, Larimer Square, Denver!

    3. Candy cigarettes? I pass out real ones.

  6. My 50 year old self is caught in a battle with my 30 year old self. Yes, PC run amok is killing Halloween. But then, 20 years ago I was dismayed that ANYBODY OVER THE AGE OF 10 FELT THE NEED TO DRESS UP FOR FUCKING HALLOWEEN. I quit trick or treating at the age of 8 and haven't put on a costume since. To me there's an interaction involved extending the period of juvenility to 35 and our rampant PC. Don't necessarily WANT the days when people, by the age of 20, had to figure out how to fucking survive, but maybe those days weren't so bad. Maybe if the struggle for a 30+ year old man to dress like an Indian or a superhero didn't exist 27 year olds, with the emotional development of a 4 year old, wouldn't be "forced" to cry over the "incorrect" choice. Or, put another way, can anyone link endless stories about Halloween costumes, and choices made, circa October 2001 (if anyone catches my drift)?

    And, yes, get off my lawn.

    1. I just go to parties as a fat lazy stupid drunk red-neck. Not just Halloween parties, either. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, block parties, office parties, kid's birthdays, ones I'm not invited to.....I show up the same way to all of 'em.

    2. Lighten up Francis.

    3. Maybe if the struggle for a 30+ year old man to dress like an Indian or a superhero didn't exist 27 year olds, with the emotional development of a 4 year old, wouldn't be "forced" to cry over the "incorrect" choice.

      Adult costume parties on specific religious or cultural holidays are a constant of history, from the Romans to the Late Medieval/Renaissance masquerade balls to the Victorians.

      You deserve this.

    4. ANYBODY OVER THE AGE OF 10 FELT THE NEED TO DRESS UP FOR FUCKING HALLOWEEN. I quit trick or treating at the age of 8 and haven't put on a costume since.

      I dressed up in college, but that was just because I wanted to hook up with some girl dressed as a sexy ____, and they wouldn't hook up with squares in normal clothes.

      I think there's something to JT's explanation, but I also think you're correct in a way. The whole trick or treating, children in costumes thing was a way to lighten up a "dark" holiday for the kiddies (and keep them from burning down their neighborhoods, according to one source). I get that the meaning of things shift over the generations, but I think you bring up a good point regarding the creeping acceptance of adults choosing the children's version of whatever cultural tradition, whether it be elaborate costumes on halloween, obsession with Santa on christmas, or, on a more serious note, acceptance of a cradle to grave Daddy Gubmint.


      Oh. You're that guy.

    6. My church holds "Trunk or Treat." Grownups dress up in costumes, decorate the trunks/back ends of their cars and trucks. There are prizes. Hundreds of costumed kids circulate with their parents, many in costume, to pick up candy, play games, get face-painted, etc. The pastors man and woman the dunking booth.

      A good time is had by all.

      You're welcome on our lawn.

      1. or in your trunk?

  7. Take Tufts University, where student-leaders of Greek life on campus are particularly worried about costume-related sanctions.

    I hope that all of those fraternity boys are from Greece...or else their culturally insensitive costumes are but the tip of the iceberg.

  8. OK, I understand that college students wish to have fun. But, come on. Dressing up in costumes is for little kids. Grow up.
    I keed I keed. I've decided to dress up as a Poncho Villa in blackface and drag. Wearing a breast cancer awareness shirt.

  9. i'm still lost about how a white woman dressing up as a pilgrim is "racist"?

    1. It offended a person of goodthink, didn't it?

      1. Goodthink sounds like a pilgrim surname,
        Jeremiah and Prudence Goodthink

    2. Look, dude, the pilgrims were a race. Are you descended from them? Then you don't get to wear a hat and shoes with matching buckles.

      1. They are a symbol of cultural oppression, they got a foothold in this continent that resulted in genocide later.

        Might as well have dressed up as a plantation owner...

        1. Plantation owner is my year round style.

        2. failed initiative, still native folks wandering around aimlessly...not everyone took a blanket

  10. It is wrong for gay men to "culturally appropriate" many things that the "victims" took from gay men in the first place. This is what many cultural-appropriation warriors actually believe.

    1. Drag queens should start dressing as fabulous Arab Sheikhs.

      1. How about a cis gendered woman dressing up as a drag queen?

  11. And this year's topical costumes?Harambe, Cecil the Lion, Donald Trump?invoke controversy, so they're out, too

    Oh, I'm pretty sure you can mock Donald Trump all you want and there's not a single person on campus that's gonna complain as long as you make sure the costume makes it clear you are mocking him.

    1. Hmm, maybe I will change my costume to Hildabeast, but that might scare the trick or treaters.

      1. Please add a prison jumpsuit. Cuffs would be a nice accessory

    2. Wearing orange-face is on the approved list.

  12. It's a satanic holiday anyway. The fundies and proggies team up once again to ruin something.

  13. Hell,most people have the blood of so many different 'races' in them how can you tell who's who? I have Cherokee ,Irish,and English ,which means Nordic,French,Roman and German most likely Of course,if you go back thousands of years they say we all come from Africa.

    1. You have your English mongrols, a mix of Celts, Romans, Vikings, etc.

      1. Who drank and pillaged their way through most of the known world

        1. good times...

    2. Sir, do you have any idea how problematic your existence is?

    3. According to 23 I have Neanderthal.

  14. 10 years ago as an undergrad I got a talking to from the Dean of Students for my Halloween costume. I wore a kilt and Egyptian keffiyeh: I was Osama McLaden!

    Pretty sure if I had done that this year I would have been a) arrested, b) expelled, c) had fellow students violently reeducate me, or d) all of the above.
    FWIW, I offered the dean no promise of contrition or not to do it again. He felt better just having 'told me of his concerns.'
    No way in hell could I go to college these days.

  15. So is blackface out? Cuz if it is, I'm in a lot of trouble.

    1. Cover it up with a white pillowcase with holes cut out so you can see

    2. Eric Bana's comment is like a well concocted gourmet sauce...subtle, textured and many flavored.

      Bravo Eric. Bravo.

  16. Those Ivy League Privileged Liberals need to head down to Cherokee, NC and protest the Cherokee shop owners selling beads, headresses, and the like (no doubt mostly made in China now days) to white tourists. I still remember the colorful feathered headress my parents bought me there back in the 60's. Had it on when I had my picture taken with the "Chief". No one shit their pants.

    1. you sure about that? check for tracks did you?

  17. Look -

    Watch Barack And Michelle Obama Zombie Dance To 'Thriller'


    The Obamas are not zombies - This is cultural appropriation - alert all Zombies!!
    they demand an apology !!!

  18. It's not about being sensitive to marginalized cultures or whatever. It has always and continues to be about driving undesirable people (whites, men, the rich, jews) and their cultural trappings out of public acceptability. Once everything that a person does becomes an intolerable offense to public decency then the real fun will begin.

  19. How racist do you have to to think that the only reason anyone would ever want to emulate other cultures is to make fun of them.

    1. Well,the Scots and Irish have it coming just for the bagpipes and haggis.

      1. Mickface is always appropriate.

    2. Some people see the glass as half-full, and some see it as half-empty.

      SJWs see all the glasses as so bone-dry they have to piss in them.

    3. about as racist as I am?

  20. actress Hillary Duff just apologized for this year's offensive couple costume?Duff and her boyfriend celebrated the holiday this weekend as a Native American and a Pilgrim

    I was wondering why they never show that episode of Brady Bunch episode anymore.

  21. First off, it is a PAGAN holiday and not exclusively Gaelic.

    Second, I believe the best response to all this nonsense is: Lighten the fuck up Francis!

  22. Pretty sure that sub-urban housewives and churches holding "trunk or treat" tailgaters are what's "killing" Halloween.

  23. This guy is totally appropriating Montana Cowboy Culture.

    I sure hope FdA doesn't let him get away with it.

  24. The best way to keep a culture alive is to confine it to a museum no one will ever visit.

    1. "It belongs in a museum!"

  25. . . . understand how completely illogical the entire notion of cultural appropriation is. Everybody steals from other cultures all the time. It's natural and impossible to avoid.

    *YOU* don't understand - do we legalize murder just because we can't stop all of them? No, wait. That's the pro-drug war rationale.

    Oh, yeah - yes people steal from other cultures all the time, its that manifestation of *privilege* that we're fighting against. People used to rape Black Women of Colour when walking down the street. It was considered 'natural and impossible to avoid'. That's been fixed now due to tireless efforts of activists fighting to bring these injustices to people's attentions when they commit them.

    1. "Cultural appropriation" is one of the very few places where socialism and Marxism are justified: "Cultural concepts and traditions from each culture according to its ability, and to each culture according to its needs!"

  26. Point of information: Hemsworth was rather famously poorly paid for several of his Thor movies, supposedly only getting about $1mil for "Avengers 1" and "Thor" combined.

    1. Whose fault was that, and why do I care? Was he forced to play the part? Was some member of his family held hostage so he accepted that amount? Will he wear that costume next Halloween?

  27. Will someone please explain the difference between "culture appropriation" and "winning the war and taking what you want as the spoils"?
    Minor point: the tribes now referred to as "native american" came from somewhere else, and ran off those who were here before they came. Then spent a long time killing each other before we outsiders came and showed them how to do it right.
    I hereby declare the act of telling anyone else how to act, or how to dress, or how to talk to be cultural appropriation of the white-male-heterosexual culture.
    So there!

  28. Shouldn't the entire fraternity system be dismantled as an inappropriate appropriation of the Greek alphabet, and by extension, the Greek culture?

  29. College campuses must stop humoring the idea that offensive costumes should be banned.

    And they really need to stop humoring the idea that these costumes are in any way offensive. They're not. If a Halloween costume offends you, please fucking kill yourself. You're worthless as a person and a net drain on civilization.

  30. Public colleges and universities need to bone up some reading. I suggest lawsuits:

    18 U.S. Code ? 241 - Conspiracy against rights

    If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or...

    42 U.S. Code ? 1983 - Civil action for deprivation of rights

    Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress,

  31. The use of the term "Vandalism" is very ethnophobic, I'm 1/32nd Vandal on my mother's side. So please be sensitive.

  32. Next to Xmas, Halloween was my favorite special day. The weather has turned cool or cold. the nights grow spookier and longer and cold temperatures lie ahead. Pumpkins decorate houses as do some spooky things. Kid came to the front door dressed in a variety of costumes, some really neat, and usually with a smile on their face. This fun! America's educators and politicians can't allow smiles and adventure. This is THEIR America. Sieg Heil!

  33. The really illogical part about the idea of cultural appropriation is I'm supposed to be like "no, I can't play blues on guitar. that's a black thing". Kind of sounds like racism to me.

  34. my gf's parents just got an almost new red Buick Regal GS only from working off a laptop.
    look at this site>>>>>>>>>>> http://tinyurl.com/h5r9tme

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.