by Arnav Harve, Staff Writer
Sent first by email and then accompanied by an announcement in assembly, the costume policy remains an important part of the school’s Halloween preparations. The policy prohibits toy weapons as well as costumes that “mock cultural or religious symbols” and/or “trivialize human suffering and marginalization”. It also gives examples of inappropriate costumes, such as ones that portray people with mental illnesses or feature dreadlocks or sombreros. What prompted the school to create the policy in the first place?
Rules around Halloween costumes had never been formally defined until 2017. The discussions around building a costume policy were initiated by students who felt deeply offended that their culture was being used as a Halloween costume by some at Nobles. “There was a call and a need to define cultural appropriation and the impact of it,” Co-Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Edgar De Leon said. While De Leon was not personally involved in the decision, he explains that many of the offensive costumes were not as obvious as something such as blackface. Erica Pernell, Former Director of DEI, approached the task of crafting the policy’s language with that problem in mind.
According to De Leon, the biggest problem with cultural appropriation is its ability to separate people and make some groups feel excluded. “If you’re dressing up as some other culture, what you’re basically saying is, ‘You’re other, so my attire is, for one day, going to be just like you.’ It’s putting distance between people,” De Leon said.
De Leon has seen less incidents of cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes since the policy has been implemented. He also believes that the policy has led to more creativity in what students choose in Halloween costumes. “There is a real positive about…how everyone has become more ingrained [in the community]. Everyone is participating more on this day.”
Students agree the Halloween costume policy is a fair way to make clear the importance of not appropriating another culture with a costume. Danielle Frankel (Class I) believes that while there are lines that could still be crossed, as a whole, the policy is an effective way to ensure that nobody in the community feels disrespected. Furthermore, for those wondering if their costume fits the Halloween policy, Frankel thinks it’s best to confirm with someone at the school. “I think that having a conversation with a teacher or administrator if you’re unsure [about a particular costume] could be a good idea,” Frankel said. Armaan Bhojwani (Class I) echoed these sentiments, believing that the open-ended nature of the policy allows students room to express themselves while still being respectful of other cultures.
Frankel and Bhojwani have never seen cultural appropriation during Halloween in their years at this school. “Outside of Nobles, I’ve definitely seen some very questionable costumes. Within the Nobles community, people have been very good about sticking to [the policy] and being sensitive with what they dress up as,” Bhojwani said. Some costumes that Bhojwani and Frankel have seen include accessories like hula skirts, leis, and afros.
Frankel and Bhojwani, both affinity group leaders of Kehila and A2A respectively, believe that having conversations about cultural appropriation during Halloween would be valuable, particularly because cultural appropriation is not something that is often discussed. De Leon is confident that the Halloween policy will continue to deter cultural appropriation in costumes, inspire more creativity, and help underrepresented students feel less marginalized. He said, “[The policy is about] bringing in a segment of the community that maybe felt like they were not part of our celebration into this bigger day.”