Lions, tigers, and racists, oh my: Halloween ignorance stengthens stereotypes

It’s that time of year again, where all the little girls and boys pick out their Halloween costumes. It’s also that time of year where people who should know better decide to make a mockery of another culture by being purposefully ignorant. Let’s just get one thing out of the way before we continue: If you were thinking of wearing a costume that represents another race, ethnicity or culture in any way, DON’T. Just do not do that. Why? Because it is racist and insensitive, that’s why.

Dressing up as another culture, race or group is stereotyping. When a costume attempts to represent another culture, race or ethnicity it reduces the entire population of the said group down to a single image and story. To stereotype is to make false assumptions about another group of people based on racist and antiquated assumptions about them. So, before buying that sombrero, or that Afro wig, consider the following: would I wear this costume around the group of people it is imitating?

“Be thoughtful, don’t be an a**; put in some work. This holiday only comes around once. Don’t ruin it for everyone by being a racist,” said Ashley de los Reyes ‘15.

It is so easy to be considerate and not make someone who is marginalized have a horrible night.  To those who are marginalized, it’s hurtful to see their culture be mocked. The Ohio University campaign “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” writes on posters “You wear the costume for one night, I wear the stigma for life” (Ohio University, 2013).

Cultural appropriation, like dreads on people who do not originate from an African background, and anything that happens at Coachella, is racist. The Google dictionary definition of cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by another cultures; i.e. Miley Cyrus Twerking, Lady Gaga donning a burqa or your cousin wearing a Native American war bonnet.

“Cultural appropriation is like walking into another person’s house, stealing their lampshade and claiming it’s a hat,” said the blog “sweetheartpleasestay” via the blogging platform tumblr.

Coming from a privileged position, being a white person, I cannot fully understand how hurtful and angering it is to see your own culture be mocked every single Halloween. I can, however, recognize how racist and horrible it is to wear a costume that represents another race, ethnicity or culture. I can also recognize that in order to end oppression, those who are in the privileged position must recognize their privilege and do everything in their power to dismantle the system that supports them, but oppresses another. This includes refusing to wear costumes that make a joke of other cultures and races by stereotyping them.

A trip through Party City’s online “International Section” proves to be a horrifying experience. ‘Sexy Eskimo’, ‘Arabian Princess’ and ‘China Doll’ are among the many shocking displays of cultural ignorance that are available to buy for the low price of $54.99 (I remember when being a racist only cost a nickel. Those were the days). The fact that there is a section on the Party City website dedicated to “international” is racist, and, frankly, just appalling.

There are so many better costumes to wear. The classics like a witch, ghost, robot or vampire are always a good standby. Contemporary costumes like The Hulk, Greek God/ess, or a taco are also fun options for a Halloween. There are so many awesome costumes to dress up as. Weird (but awesome) costumes are always a great go-to, like the Queen of England, a dragon princess, a favorite video game character or grumpy cat. I literally just listed off eleven fantastic costume ideas that won’t offend an entire race, culture, or ethnicity. I hope that this Halloween, no one at St. Kate’s picks the worst costume of all: a racist.

Sarah can be reached at sjmolland@stkate.edu.

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