Faculty Member Condemned For Wearing Culturally-Appropriate Halloween Costume
A Native American faculty member at the University of New Mexico has been called racist for wearing a traditional Native American headdress on Halloween.
The faculty member, who university officials are refusing to name, wore the traditional attire to a pumpkin carving contest, causing outrage amongst the KIVA Club, a Native American group on campus.
“Just because you’re Native American, does not give you a free pass to rock a headdress or a tomahawk,” co-president of the KIVA club, Joaquina Castillo, told KRQE news. “She was actually being awarded for most authentic costume, which is just an even more big slap in the face.”
Castillo told KRQE that she expected people to use the Native American culture as a costume, but was surprised to see a photo of a staff member ‘appropriating’ the headdress via a UNM Facebook account.
“They represent the university in a way that speaks to the values of this university. When we see faculty members, who are outwardly culturally appropriating from any background someone else’s culture, it sends a clear message,” Hope Alvrado, a UNM student, and KIVA Club member, told KRQE.
Both Castillo and Alvrado were aware the faculty member was also Native American.
“Just because you’re Native American, does not give you a free pass to rock a headdress or a tomahawk,” Castillo said.
According to the students, the staff member is part of the Navajo Nation. Alvrado, who is also Navajo, says headdresses were not part of that culture.
“Headdresses are not part of Navajo culture, at all, in any way. It’s more of a plains indigenous peoples culture,” Alvrado explained. “People need to be held accountable. We need to call it what it is and that’s cultural appropriation. It’s racism.”
“Not so much to attack, or blame her, or alienate her, or to get her in trouble, but to show her this is not how you celebrate Halloween,” said Castillo, apparently unaware that Native Americans didn’t celebrate Halloween at all.
The faculty member will not face any disciplinary actions for her costume, but the picture that was posted to Facebook has been taken down.
The two students, and the university, both hope the incident leads to more diversity on campus.
Featured Image Via Flickr/wsilver
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