SUU tells students ‘my culture is not a costume’ for Halloween

CEDAR CITY, Utah -- Southern Utah University is asking students to be more sensitive about the kind of Halloween costumes they choose to wear this year.

"My Culture is Not a Costume" poster. (courtesy SUU)

In a campaign being launched on campus, SUU's Center for Diversity & Inclusion is putting up posters and digital ads that declare "My Culture is not a Costume." The campaign is meant to be educational, said center director Maria Martinez.

The posters feature students on campus holding pictures of actual Halloween costumes.

"Representing an entire race as a Halloween costume is wrong and offensive. You are turning what I look like into a joke and mocking historical oppression. This is an important conversation to have not only during Halloween but all year," said Sunny Sims, a junior political science and criminal justice major, who is on one of the posters holding a photo of someone dressed in blackface.

"My Culture is Not a Costume" poster. (courtesy SUU)

SUU's Center for Diversity & Inclusion got the idea from other universities, where similar discussions about costumes have been held.

According to university demographic numbers, nearly 76% of SUU's student population self-identifies as white; about 6% are Hispanic/Latino; about 2% identify as African-American; 1% are Asian; 1% are Polynesian; and another 1% are American Indian (another 7% were unidentified).

The center's Christopher Mendoza told FOX 13 many students may not be aware that their choice of costume is reducing someone's culture down to a caricature.

"I think a lot of times people are not aware of how these things are issues," he said.

"My Culture is Not a Costume" poster. (courtesy SUU)

Martinez said the campaign has so far sparked a lot of conversation and positive feedback from students.

"We have had a couple of naysayers," she said. "That's the point, right? The whole point is to start this dialogue and get people talking about it. We have had some people push back and we're happy to have a conversation with them."