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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘Culture, not a costume’

As Halloween draws near and many students are searching for the perfect costume, the organization Aggies to Aggies held an event aimed at starting a conversation on how to wear festive costumes without appropriating certain cultures.

Aggies to Aggies, or A2A, is a student organization that focuses on peer diversity education. On Tuesday the group hosted a seminar for students interested in the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Psychology junior and A2A facilitator Pete Pham said proper knowledge of cultural appropriation is very important, especially as students choose Halloween costumes.

“This topic is important because we don’t want people to reaffirm negative stereotypes of cultures,” Pham said. “You can wear a cultural costume or outfit and it won’t borderline cultural appreciation if you appreciate the culture and you respect the culture and you’re informed about the culture.”

Pham said one common example of cultural appropriation is comedians or actors performing in blackface, or makeup used by a nonblack person in order to appear black. He said the definition of what makes a culture is something that should be examined, as it involves many other factors other than race.

“[Cultural appropriation] misrepresents groups in a light that they don’t want to be represented in,” Pham said. “The thing about cultural appropriation is that a lot of people do associate culture with race but that’s not the case, because culture is influenced by other things like education institutions. Here at Texas A&M, our ‘Aggieness’ is considered a culture, so we want to give people the idea that it’s not okay to misrepresent any type of culture.”

Pham said A2A’s ultimate goal is to start an interactive conversation about consequences for actions like cultural appropriation.

“We want to dive into our campus and inform as many people as possible,” Pham said. “When we do these facilitations, we want to make them as interactive as possible. We want people to try to think about things they don’t usually think about. We want people to think before they act because even though you aren’t hurting them physically, they will have negative perceptions of you.”

Diversity Education Specialist and advisor for A2A Dear Aunaetitrakul said it was the students of A2A that came up with the idea of holding this seminar.

“My students are the ones who came up with these topics,”  Aunaetitrakul said. My conversations with them have been that they want to talk about it, they want to raise awareness, because it’s something we don’t talk about at A&M.”

Computer science senior Macy Hampton attended the seminar. With regards to Halloween costumes, Hampton said the seminar helped her to see that imitating characteristics, such as way of walking or talking, can be cultural appropriation.

“My biggest takeaway was to look at, in the context of Halloween costumes, individual characteristics that a person controls rather than what they are born with,” Hampton said.

Hampton said the seminar defined cultural appreciation more clearly for her.

“I think that it helped me understand cultural appropriation as more of an interactive idea rather than a ‘just don’t do it,’” Hampton said. “I think it’s a more distinct line in my mind now than before.”

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