The Student Center for Multicultural Life is conducting a “My culture is not a costume” and “Their culture is not our costume” photo shoot for students of color Wednesday, Thursday and today as a way to show solidarity in the wake of recent acts of ethnic stereotyping and to help educate the campus community about the harmful effects of ethnic stereotyping. 

Director of the Student Center for Multicultural Life Benjamin Harris explained the Center developed this project to address issues of offensive parties on campus that have stereotyped particular cultures.  Through this photo project, he hopes to demonstrate that the stereotypical costumes and themes of certain parties have offended students of color by portraying important aspects of their cultures in degrading, insensitive manners.

 “We will try to educate, be proactive, instead of being reactive when things happen, such as the ‘gangster’ party, such as ‘Cracksgiving,’ such as the ‘tequila’ party,” said Harris. “I envision the photos to show Bowdoin students from different cultures and different backgrounds [are] represented, and that representation is something that as a campus as a community we should celebrate.”

Kiki Nakamura-Koyama ’17, an organizer of the project and intern at the Center, believes this process will be valuable for students of color in addition to being educational. 
“I hope this will help ease some of the pain that a lot of students of color have been feeling,” Kiki added. 

 For now, the photographs of various students of color will be shared on social media. Yet this photo project is also part of a much larger campaign the Center will pursue in the coming semester and year.  This longer-term project will consist of additional photo shoots and the use of posters with a similar goal. Part of Harris’ goal is to emphasize the beauty of people and their cultures and prevent the reduction of components of their identities to stereotypes and “things for amusement.”

 To prevent future instances of stereotyping and help foster a respectful community, the Center plans to be proactive and preemptive at times like Halloween to remind the community to be respectful of other people’s cultures when choosing themes and costumes for events. 

“We’re not saying people shouldn’t dress up [in] costumes. That’s not the case. There’s a million costumes people can dress up as. There’s a million themed parties people can have,” said Harris. “But we want students to be more thoughtful and caring and show respect for other people on campus because we want this space and everybody to feel like this is Bowdoin for them and not just Bowdoin for a few.”