Wear a costume, not a culture

Friday, October 28, 2011

By Amanda Wake, ACRJ

Halloween is on it’s way here and I’m bracing myself as I always do during this time of year to be offended and disgusted. Not by the fake blood, the scary masks and the spooky costumes, but the blatantly racist costumes that I know I’m going to see.

Like the “Sake Sweetie” costume with an Obi, ready with 3 shot glasses for your drinking pleasure. Or the “Chinese Emperor” costume equipped with buck teeth, thick glasses and long braid. There's also the black face costumes that send us backwards 100 years. I could go on, but I'm sure your blood pressure is escalating by now so I will spare you.

Yesterday we did a workshop with the young women of SAFIRE around Halloween costumes. We compared pictures of real people with a Halloween costume representation of them. The SAFIRE youth agreed that the costumes were offensive and disrespectful. “They are misrepresenting their culture and enforcing stereotypes!” said one of the SAFIRE young women. Another youth is now seriously re-thinking her Pocahontas costume and is going to return it if she can. Another SAFIRE youth asked, "But would it be offensive if I dressed in a Police or Firefighter costume?" As a group we agreed that it's different to wear a misrepresentation of a uniform than to misrepresent a deep rooted culture that has been historically exploited, exotified and stereotyped.

So when you dress up for Halloween this weekend, don’t forget to not dress up as a racist.

Thank you STARS: Students Teaching Against Racism – at Ohio University for inspiring this workshop and our youth! If you haven’t seen their campaign yet, you have to check them out!

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