Even in 2017, one of the scariest parts of Halloween are offensive and inappropriate costumes.
Reagan West, a student at Oklahoma University, apologized after dressing as Pocahontas for Halloween — and taking the costume the extra offensive mile by claiming Pocahontas was her “great grandma a lot of years ago.” West is a member of OU’s Pi Beta Phi sorority, and both her sorority chapter and the OU Panhellenic Association condemned her behavior.
Earlier this week, West posted a (now-deleted) Instagram photo of her costume. As the OU Daily reports, she was met with immediate criticism from her fellow students.
Y'all are making me hate Halloween. DO. NOT. DO. RED. FACE. You are old enough to know better than this. pic.twitter.com/PdrxHQhzgZ
— alex (@AlexandriaSHolt) November 2, 2017
— Skyler (@skylerandrewh) November 2, 2017
As the OU Daily reports, the statements released by the sorority and the Greek system’s Panhellenic Association were deeply disapproving of West’s actions. “It is disappointing that a Panhellenic woman would choose to wear something that appropriates another culture after numerous educational opportunities offered by the Panhellenic leadership,” said Nichole Krug, president of the association. “The apology in no way takes away the pain inflicted upon and still being felt by the Native community here at the university.”
West’s own sorority president, Carly Norwood, agreed that the costume amounted to cultural appropriation. “There is a difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation, and Pi Beta Phi has worked with its chapters on understanding the impact of their Halloween costume choices,” wrote Norwood in a statement. “The choice made by one University of Oklahoma Pi Beta Phi member to dress like Pocahontas is cultural appropriation and not an example of living Pi Beta Phi’s value of Honor and Respect.”
West herself has shared a written apology to Twitter. “I am truly sorry if I unintentionally offended anyone in the Native American community with my Pocahontas Halloween costume,” she wrote. “It was never my intent to be disrespectful. … I am thankful for this opportunity to further educate myself about the Native American culture, and specifically how Native American women have been treated throughout the years.” She also cited her “Native American family roots.”
This year, some colleges tried extra hard to prevent cultural appropriation by issuing Halloween costume guidelines. St. Thomas University in Minnesota advised students to avoid wearing “unacceptable” costumes such as “Native American headdresses, dressing up as a ‘Mexican’ by wearing a sombrero, dressing as a ‘geisha,’ any form of blackface.” Princeton, Ohio State, and the University of Utah all issued similar statements in an attempt to get ahead of any costume issues.
West, sadly, is in good company when it comes to inappropriate Halloween costumes. Kim Kardashian dressed up as Aaliyah as one of her many costumes this year, inviting criticism from fans. Thankfully, she only wore makeup and clothing that emulated the pop star and didn’t wear blackface. Next Halloween, let’s all try to avoid offending anyone and focus on the candy.
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