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Is Your Halloween Costume Racist?

Kendi K.
Oct 27, 2020 - 12:18

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Halloween is just around the corner. While celebrations will certainly look different this year due to the coronavirus, many still plan to dress up and have fun in a socially distanced environment. Personally, I have decided to dress up as Star Wars’ Mandalorian and sit in my living room with a big bag of fun-sized candy all to myself. 

But just because there will be no Halloween ragers this year, there is no excuse for the emergence of racist costumes we tend to see every year. So before the holiday arrives, use this as a guide to make sure your Halloween costume isn’t promoting racist ideologies.

Racist & Culturally Insensitive Costumes

One of the most widely worn racist costumes is the depiction of an “Indian Chief.” Because crude caricatures of Indigenous people are often used as mascots, including for some of the nation’s most widely known sports teams, this hardly comes as a shock. This costume tends to include cheap moccasins, a brightly colored feather headpiece, and sometimes even painted red skin. It’s racist. 

Historically, a geisha is a Japanese hostess that performs traditional songs and dances. It is very hard to become a geisha, making those who are well-respected figures. In the Western world, the view of geishas has become hyper-sexualized and stereotyped. Geisha costumes tend to include revealing kimono style outfits, which is a far cry from the layered outfits true geishas adorn. The stereotypical costume also includes chopsticks in one’s hair, which makes no sense considering that chopsticks are literally eating utensils.

Common names listed for this costume include “Arab Man,” “Muslim Costume,” or worse, “Terrorist.” None of these names make any sort of remote sense. It tends to include a white gown, a head covering and sometimes a fake beard. It is the amalgamation of multiple harmful stereotypes, creating an overall racist costume that perpetuates dangerous rhetoric about different ethnic and religious groups.

This costume is perhaps one of the more widely excused ones, but it most certainly shouldn’t be. The Hula is a traditional dance originated by the Polynesians who settled the Hawaiian islands. It is a complex art form usually accompanied by a traditional song or chant. America’s annexation of Hawaii in 1898, which was modern colonization, caused much of the island’s original culture and people’s erasure. The depiction of a hula dancer is offensive to the traditional Polynesian dance and the Polynesian people.

Mexico and those who emigrate from the country has been a heavy focus of the news cycle in the past four years. As Trump and his administration have worked to tear apart the immigrant and refugee system, he has demonized Mexican people in an attempt to justify his horrific actions. This only adds to the long list of reasons why this costume is overtly harmful.

Lastly, we have the all too familiar use of Black face. Every year, it seems like some politician is outed for having done it years ago and some celebrity shows up to a party in it. Despite the intense backlash, most instances are met with, it continues to happen. It’s time to end this overtly racist practice for good.

All in all, it’s racist to dress up as someone of a race or ethnic group to which you do not belong. With literally thousands of other options out there, why would you even choose one of these? It’s not funny. It’s not cool. It’s stupid, extremely offensive and could ruin someone’s Halloween. So just don’t do it.

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