The "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" campaign originated from a student organization on Ohio University's campus called Students Teaching About Racism In Society (STARS). Ohio University's (STARS) organization began their "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" campaign in 2011 to combat racial and ethnic stereotypes commonly depicted in Halloween costumes. Learn more about OU STARS's poster campaign and how it has developed/changed throughout the years here.
September- Last year, Housing and Residential Education's Diversity Development Team (DDT) recognized it was important to address how cultural appropriation manifests on DU's campus, particularly around the time of Halloween, in the form of costumes, practices, and parties that appropriate certain aspects of other cultures. The DDT reached out to other universities who had also launched their own "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" campaign and generated ideas for putting together a DU poster campaign in time for Halloween.
October- Posters for DU's "My Culture is Not a Costume" are created with the help of student leaders in HRE who bravely volunteer to be a part of the campaign. The following posters were put up in residence halls and around campus to spread awareness around campaign and hopefully reduce culturally appropriative costumes during Halloween.There was a mixed response from students about the "My Culture is Not a Costume" campaign, that played out largely over the anonymous social media platform, Yik Yak. Students' comments ranged from support to strong criticism of the campaign because they felt it told them what not to do. Comments on Yik Yak not only criticized the campaign, but were derogatory and targeted the student leaders who had bravely volunteered to participate in the campaign.
In debriefing the campaign with student leaders some helpful feedback HRE received was that the campaign focused too much on what not to do/limiting students actions, versus educating students on what cultural appropriation is and how it is hurtful and problematic to student groups and individuals on campus.
November- DDT launched a response to the hurtful, bigoted, and derogatory comments on Yik Yak called "Take Back the Yak". This campaign encouraged students, staff, and community members to use Yik Yak as a positive platform for uplifting others, versus a platform where people felt comfortable hiding behind the cloak of anonymity to post cruel comments.
PRESENT DAY- 2016:
The decision is made by HRE to once again to launch the "My Culture is Not a Costume" campaign, but to take the feedback from last year and make important changes. Some of the overall changes decided in regards to the campaign are the following:
- This will be an effort taken on by the whole department with collaboration from various campus partners, not just the DDT
- There will be a greater focus on educating students and staff around cultural appropriation and the hurtful impact it has on others
- We will not use DU student faces for the campaign, but rather use Ohio University STAR's own poster campaign (with modifications relevant to DU) as the visual media for the campaign
- With this change, we also changed the campaign to be called "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" which aligns with the language Ohio University STAR's uses
- There will be active components to the campaign to further education, which include the following:
- Professional staff training for HRE and the Division of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence that explains and deconstructs cultural appropriation
- Student leader training for HRE RAs that explains cultural appropriation and facilitating dialogue with residents
- Co-program with DUPB and other offices and student organizations on Driscoll Green to celebrate Halloween and alternative ways to have a fun Holiday without appropriating other cultures