Halloween is here and with it, a fun night of dressing in costume and making memories with your sisters. Halloween is not the only themed party you are bound to attend this year. It is important to think of your costume choices, not just for today, but for the remainder of your college career. No matter if you have good intentions, cultural appropriation can be very easy to do. Cultural appropriation is the borrowing of cultural elements in a way that is inappropriate or undesirable.

There several questions you can ask yourself before stepping out of the house:

• Does your costume portray a stereotype of certain groups, genders, ethnicities, socio-economic classes, cultures or other campus organizations?
• Does your costume degrade, exclude or make light of any person or group of people? 
• Does the costume in any way promote alcohol, drinking, illegal drugs or illegal/inappropriate activity? 
• Does the costume promote a negative image or association to Gamma Phi Beta, the fraternity/sorority community or your university? 
• Would you be embarrassed to send photos of you in your costume to parents/guardians, grandparents, campus administrators, advisors, volunteers or International Headquarters?

While you and your sisters may mean well, you may accidently make others feel uncomfortable or even hurt by your costume choice. The last thing you want is to upset someone who identifies with the group your costume represents.

Just because cultural appropriated costumes are sold in stores, doesn’t make it okay. Kids may wear Native American head dresses or large Hispanic sombreros, unknowing to the cultural stereotyping taking place, but what separates you from them is that you now know better. Part of being a great leader, is recognizing when something is wrong and acting to ensure it doesn’t happen to you or your sisters. Just because others are doing it, doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Good leaders don’t just follow but strive to make positive changes and make others feel included and accepted.

While you are preparing for Halloween festivities, or planning your next themed event, think through your costume and ensure that it isn’t mimicking a cultural stereotype. There is such a wide range of costumes and themes to choose from that between the creativity amongst your sisters, a unique and fun idea can be thought up before you resort to a potentially offensive idea.

Appropriation can be potentially dangerous and so to keep you and your sisters safe this spooky holiday, its best to stay away from stereotyping.

Have fun and enjoy a safe Halloween!

Katrina Botell (California-Santa Barbara): Katrina is a recent college graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara where she studied psychology and English. She became a member of Gamma Phi Beta as a transfer student in 2015 and served as a member of the social committee before gaining the position of new member social chair. In addition, she served as editor at UCSB's Focus Media Journal. Katrina currently resides in Sacramento, California and in her free time enjoys reading, writing, crafting and hiking.