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Be Aware this Halloween: From Candy to Costumes

Pumpkin graphic text displaying blog title: "Be Aware the Halloween: From Candy to Costumes".

It’s that time of year: the leaves begin to turn and fall, orange pumpkins line doorsteps everywhere you go, and spooky decor has found a place in every store. Some only celebrate Fall for a season of harvest and change, while others embrace it for the holiday famous for sweets, tricks, and completely transforming your look: Halloween! Let’s learn fun facts about snacks of the season and how to celebrate in an inclusive way.
What Are You Eating?
For many, Halloween represents a celebratory time to (re)create spooky scenes with vivid décor, spend time with loved ones, indulge in tasty treats, and perhaps most importantly - dress in fun costumes!
A Top Data survey found participation in the candy-giving holiday has rebounded significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic.

From 2019 to 2020, Halloween candy sales decreased by 19% amid fears about the virus and germ transmission.

In 2021, Halloween candy sales increased by more than 10% over 2020 figures. 
According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween candy spending will soar to a whopping $3.1 Billion this year!

Graph showing historical data on money spent on halloween candy from 2010-2021.

If you’re buying candy this year, what kind do you plan to get? Did you know, according to data, M&M’s are the most popular Halloween candy in Ohio? Click here to see the stats for other U.S. States.

Imagery of women and girls in various cultural dress with text reading "My culture is not your costume. Halloween is a wondrous time in which we become someone we're not for a night, but we have to make sure that the costumes we choose to wear don't appropriate sacred cultures."

What Will You Wear?
When considering costumes, it is important to choose options that are not culturally appropriative. 
What Does This Mean? 
Cultural appropriation can be defined as the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of customs, dress, practices, ideas, etc…. of a social group by members of another (and typically a more socially & politically dominant) social group. Simply put, cultural appropriation means trying on parts of a culture that don’t belong to you. 
Why is it Problematic? 
Dressing up like any ethnic/racial group is offensive. It reduces traditional clothing, customs and practices to a joke or simply an aesthetic - an aesthetic that one can take off at the end of the night. Individuals of marginalized/oppressed groups whose identities are trivialized and come with sociohistorical trauma, however, do not have the privilege of ‘taking off’ the oppression they face on an everyday basis. 
Cultural appropriation is harmful, even if you don’t intend for it to be. Such costumes often rely on stereotypes, which perpetuate harmful ideas and ideologies rooted in hate. One of the most ‘popular’ culturally appropriative costumes are that of Indigenous women and girls, who are among the most vulnerable in American society. 
So What Can I Wear? 
Your options are limitless! However, races/ethnicities, heritages, and cultures are strictly off-limits.  
Additionally, any costumes that involve blackface (the painting of one’s skin brown or black) and/or the donning of garments or accessories that have deep meaning for particular communities are unacceptable. If you are emulating the features of another race or culture, it’s best to rethink your ensemble.
Take time this Halloween to learn about another culture or ethnicity, rather than try to recreate it. Have questions about making your Halloween more inclusive? Email [email protected] for more information.

Dr. Sierra J. Austin-King serves as the ESC's Regional School Improvement Coordinator for Equity and Diversity. Dr. Austin-King's research, activism and work focuses on education equity and prioritizes operationalizing intersectional approaches to social change.

Her most recent publication will appear in Films for the Feminist Classroom (forthcoming), with others in Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society and Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s, Studies. Dr. Austin-King is the recipient of several grants awarded by the National Women’s Studies Association, OSU’s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Columbus College of Art & Design, and the ESC of Central Ohio. She has presented original research both domestically and abroad, including in Spain and various parts of the UK. 

Dr. Austin-King has been recognized as a Leadership Ohio Ambassador (2021), a YWCA Columbus Sue Doody Alumni of the Year (2020), and a JPMorgan Chase & Deloitte Wise Women Rising Star (2019). She currently serves as board member and grants committee chair of the Women's Fund of Central Ohio, as a member of the Franklin University School of Education Advisory Board, and a member of the YWCA Columbus Alumni Committee. She is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, and a member of the current class of Leadership Columbus.