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Student Campaign Fights ‘Culturally Appropriative’ Halloween Costumes

A student organization at Ohio University has released their latest poster in a campaign against costumes based on ethnic and racial stereotypes.

Students Teaching About Racism in Society (OU STARS) in Athens, Ohio, have been raising awareness about the harm of such Halloween costumes since 2011. The 2016 poster features a member of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement with the message, "My fight is not your costume."

"'We're A Culture Not A Costume' began in response to the large block party at Ohio University every Halloween," Mailé Nguyen, OU STARS president, told NBC News. "We feel that culturally appropriative costumes alienate and exotify certain students on our campus, and [we] wanted to educate people on the harmful effects of enforcing negative stereotypes of minorities."

Founded in 1988, the student organization's mission is to facilitate discussion about diversity and racial issues, to raise awareness about social justice, and to promote racial harmony. The student organization's original 2011 campaign featured posters of students of color holding photographs of people dressed in ethnic stereotyped costumes with yellowface, blackface, brownface, redface, and terrorist stereotypes for Halloween, with the message, "This is not who I am and this is not ok."

Other messages that have been featured in subsequent years include, "You wear the costume for one night, I wear the stigma for life," "You think it's harmless, but you're not the target," and "When this is how the world sees you, it's just not funny." Not limiting themselves to ethnic and racial stereotypes, the organization has also critiqued costumes of transgender and hillbilly stereotypes.

"This year, we really wanted to pay tribute to the BLM movement, and show that racism still exists," continued Nguyen. "For the past few weeks, we have been planning, editing, and distributing our latest poster as well as strengthening our diversity trainings that we provide to other student organizations on campus."

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