You’ve discussed costume ideas with friends, scoured the internet and taken trips to thrift stores and pop-up shops, all in the hope of putting together that perfect Halloween costume. But did you consider the cultural statement your costume is making?
NU’s Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance (NAISA) is hoping you do. In October, NAISA started a campaign called "Dress to Respect" to raise awareness about culturally insensitive Halloween costumes. They placed nearly 300 posters on sidewalks and in residence halls, according to Weinberg senior Adam Mendel, co-president of NAISA. The cultural group coordinated with Alianza, For Members Only, and the Panhellenic Association to distribute the flyers over their listservs. They also posted updates on Twitter and Facebook.
With the bulk of Halloween events taking place Wednesday night and the following weekend it's difficult to gauge the success of "Dress to Respect." But Weinberg sophomore and former NAISA president Aileen McGraw, who designed the campaign's posters, is optimistic. “From the costumes I’ve seen, I find it encouraging. You can still be odd and ironic and do it in a respectful way.” McGraw designed the posters with her twin sister, who is a Columbia College student.
McGraw hopes students who come across culturally insensitive costumes this Halloween have the courage to confront their peers. “Tell them that you find it offensive,” she suggested.
The NU administration, in the wake of previous Halloween incidents, reached out to students as well. Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for Student Affairs, sent an email last Friday to the student body, urging them to be respectful in their Halloween costume choices. "While students, graduate and undergraduate, have the right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population," read the email.
Across the country, students, school districts, sociologists and Fox News have grappled with the issue of how to celebrate Halloween appropriately. In Russia, the Orthodox Church has its own solution. As for NAISA, McGraw said the campaign aims to “help campus come to realize this concerns everyone.”
“It’s so cliché to just start these conversations," McGraw said, "but we hope this will lead to action.”
In future years, NAISA hopes to partner with IFC and PHA to keep culturally insensitive costumes out of Halloween parties. This year, the group's second year in existence, they are working to incorporate more native studies courses and major/minor opportunities into the curriculum, and partnering with other student groups on campus to get Native American and indigenous issues heard and discussed. Members say participation has been increasing in their meetings, which take place every other Tuesday evening in Kresge 2-435.