Two examples of Ohio University’s “Culture Not Costume” posters.
Well, it’s October. Time for the leaves to start changing, the rain to start falling, and pumpkin spice everything to take over our lives.
It’s also time to start thinking about Halloween costumes.
I used to rant about oversexualized women’s costumes, and I still find the options for women’s costumes disappointing (to put it mildly), but recently I’ve become more aware of the piles and piles of racist costumes out there – mostly because, well, people keep wearing them.
I know the options for mass-market costumes are not ideal. I know coming up with a costume to make or closet-shop for yourself is hard. But please, be mindful of what you choose to wear. A costume sends a message, and however innocent your intent might be, the impact could be very different from what you wanted.
We don’t like hearing about people being “offended.” We tell them they should grow a thicker skin, that it’s just a joke, that they’re being too PC, it’s not a big deal, nobody else is upset so why are they, etc etc etc.
We tell them basically whatever we can think of to avoid the truth, which is that we hurt someone and we need to do something about it.
Again, your intent doesn’t matter. (Sorry.) Regardless of whether you mean to cause hurt, you don’t get to dictate whether or not someone else has actually felt hurt. Own up to it. Apologize for it.
Better yet, be mindful about your actions and avoid causing hurt in the first place.
Here are some great pieces about Halloween costumes and cultural appropriation, which will say it better than I ever could:
“Unfortunately, sometimes the “fun” comes at the expense of others, and the scariest thing is how rampant racism is on Halloween. Before you give me an eye roll and say, “Relax, it’s just a joke,” listen up. Because I used to be you.”
A full archive on why not to wear a Native American costume. A few reasons: Native Americans still exist (they are not fictional characters), 1 in 3 Native American women suffer rape, and in Canada, indigenous women are over four times more likely to be murdered than other women.
Experts break down the excuses often used to defend a racist costume.
A flowchart to determine whether your costume is racist!
“It is possible for White people to dress as characters of color, or as celebrities of color – but if the only thing that makes the character/celebrity distinctive to you is their skin color? I’d rethink your reasons behind the costume and try to be a bit more creative.”