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A fun Guide to learn more about Halloween, WV Cryptids, Dia de los Muertos, and how to stay safe this holiday season.

Aaliyah Jihad @ TEDx Youth

Cultural Appropriation: Why Your Pocahontas Costume Isn't Okay

Aaliyah Jihad

TEDx Youth @ Ann Arbor


In 21 minutes, Aaliyah Jihad does a fantastic job at explaining the difference between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation. If you are looking for a quick recap, in her presentation she presents the following differences between the two terms:

Cultural Exchange Cultural Appropriation
  • not clearly racist
  • not using a sacred item for my own self-expression
  • open to learning from other cultures about what I'm using or doing
  • blatantly offensive
  • using a religious or meaningful item for my own benefit
  • choosing to ignore the feelings of people of the culture which I'm borrowing from

Questions to Ask Yourself

The line between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation is slim. These questions will help you reflect on your costume.

  1. Is your costume racially, ethnically or culturally based?
    If the answer is yes, change. You are appropriating.
  2. Do you belong to that group of people?
    If the answer is no, change. You are appropriating.
  3. Is your costume funny or sexy? 
    If your costume is funny or sexy, but is also racially, ethnically or culturally based, change. You are appropriating.
  4. Would you wear that costume around that group of people? 
    If the answer is no, change. You are appropriating.

It's also important to consider

"if you're coming from a place of sincere respect, humility, and mutual understanding- i.e. were you invited to partake in this cultural appreciation? You should also ask yourself whether a Halloween party is really the place to show appreciation for a culture that is sacred and deeply personal to others" (Bhupal & Park, 2013).

Bhupal, H. K., & Park, J. (2013, October 29). This Halloween, Choose Respect. The Harvard Crimson.

Tidwell, S. (2019, October 29). Column: Appreciation versus appropriation during Halloween. The State News.

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