Wow, Look at Your Costume! It's so...Racist?
by c.papadopoulos on October 28, 2014 - 11:58pm
The article “’Racist’ Halloween costumes stir debate” by Marlene Habib of CBC News posted on October 27th, 2011 discusses the issue of people wearing Halloween costumes that some members of different ethnic groups find rather offensive, and well, racist. A campaign was launched by Ohio University’s Students Teaching About Racism in Society, also known as STARS, and fired up much debate as to whether or not wearing ethnically influenced clothing was appropriate. STARS’ campaign featured many students of different ethnicities holding up posters that read “we’re a culture, not a costume” and also displayed pictures of people with blackface, people dressed up as natives, people dressed up as terrorists, etc. As word of this campaign hit Canada, Canadians reacted in two ways: some were thrilled that this campaign was doing the job in raising awareness on the issue, while others were irritated by it and believed that it was pointless. On one of the many media websites which discussed/advertized this campaign, “RussianInCanada” disagreed with it and commented that any Halloween costume is offensive to at least one person and that Halloween in general is offensive to almost everyone. Another blogger, Jarrah Hodge of New Westminster, B.C., commented that costume companies are continuously trying to come up with better ways of enhancing racial and cultural appropriation while sexualizing women in every way possible. Brent Farrington, a campaigner associated with the Ottawa-based Canadian Federation of Students, CFS, concluded by stating that making fun of one’s background even if it’s on one day a year is not a valid excuse nor is it ok. It’s due to this recent shift of culture in society that makes people believe that it’s appropriate to wear such things as blackface and other ethnic clothing one day a year and think nothing negative about it.
It’s ironic that I came across this article so close to Halloween and that we just finished discussing this issue in class not too long ago, meaning it should still be fresh in our minds. I personally believe that Halloween isn’t meant to be a racist day; however it COULD be offensive and racist to a certain extent. It’s the people who dress up as the KKK, or wear blackface to depict Trayvon Martin, for example, who make us question whether Halloween is offensive or not. I see nothing wrong with kids and teens dressing up as their favourite superheroes or favourite Disney characters for Halloween because those impersonations are good and memorable ones that most of us love. But when a group shows up at a party dressed up as the KKK, well, we can’t really say that they bring up good memories, knowing what happened in the past. I do not agree with what “RussianInCanada” had to say, because he made it sound like it’s natural for Halloween to be offensive and that it should be offensive, when it’s not. Dressing up isn’t a sin; we just need to think carefully about who or what we’re impersonating. I agree with Brent Farrington that some people take Halloween a little to the extreme with things like wearing Blackface and the KKK, but these people don’t realize just how offensive it is due to this cultural shift in society that makes us believe it’s tolerable and ok. This article was well-written in the sense that it shared what many bloggers had to say about this campaign and about this issue, and it was really great to see that the article brought in some Canadian perspective as well. However, the article did not express any opinions from the students of STARS’ campaign, which could’ve been useful to hear about what they had to say about it. In sum, I never really thought about Halloween being this offensive until now, it’s been quite the eye-opener. I believe this is a debate that will last a long while before it’s put to rest due to many of the different clashing views, values and ethnicities of individuals. I believe that once a year when Halloween comes around, before picking a costume, we should ask ourselves: “Will this costume be offensive to some people in any way?” and consider changing or modifying it if we even slightly think it might be. It won’t hurt us to change or modify our costumes, but it just might hurt others if we don’t.
Habib, M. (2011, October 27). Racist Halloween costumes stir debate. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/racist-halloween-costumes-stir-debate-1.1068901