Halloween is just around the corner and we all know people are thinking about costumes. And with costumes come ways to offend, so as a reminder to all, try not to be offensive on Halloween this year. Here are some tips to remember how not to offensive.
I know people want to dress up as characters who are black. Perhaps you want to be the badass Michonne from "The Walking Dead" or the awesome performer Beyoncé. You can do this without doing blackface: just wear Michonne’s identifiable katana sword, headband, and grimy, apocalyptic clothes (the vest, shirt, and jeans). For Beyoncé, wear her key honey-blonde hair and have an awesome (most likely sparkly) performer’s outfit. Basically, look at what memorable things she has worn during tour and try to copy that. And you’re probably wondering, Why can’t I just take brown or black paint to make myself darker like that, it's the same thing as painting myself purple! However, it is not. Those colors don’t have a damaging and offensive history that blackface has.
Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used by white performers dressing up as black people popularly in the 19th century during minstrel shows. They would wear blackface made by burnt corks, paint exaggerated red lips, and wear gaudy, ratty clothing. Later on, when black performers were accepted for the first time, they were only accepted in blackface. Blackface was a way to mock black people and their features. Overall, it’s a racist and stereotypical portrayal of black people that was used during a time of racial inequality. So don’t try to use makeup to look like a race or ethnicity. Race and ethnicity are not costumes. You’ll only be, for the most part, perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
Just like race and ethnicity aren’t costumes, neither are other people’s cultures and identities, especially those of marginalized groups. For example, don’t try to be Native American and wear the headdress (and for the people in music festivals, please stop that). These are real-life cultures that people practice; it’s very mocking to wear their traditional garments that some have been ridiculed for as if it’s just a cool costume. It’s not a costume; it’s something meaningful to them, something they are trying to preserve; it’s not something fun to dress up as for Halloween.
And most definitely don’t go as Caitlyn Jenner. Even if Caitlyn Jenner herself declares it’s fine, it’s really not. Dressing up as Caitlyn Jenner is harmful, as it reduces transgender folks to jokes and stereotypes. The struggles many marginalized groups have faced and are still facing aren’t costumes and something to be made light.
Lastly, don’t try to do anything that’s heartless and tasteless. Don’t try to be stupid and be something like a student from a school shooting or Cecil the lion. Why would anybody ever think that would be a good idea? I honestly cannot say why people can be careless but if you’re thinking about doing something similar, perhaps you should not. Real-life tragedies and people (or animals, in Cecil’s case) who have died are not costumes; it’s not only disrespectful to the victims but to the victims’ families.
All in all, Halloween is a fun time of the year, when it’s cool to be your favorite fictional character or favorite celeb. But it can all be done in a respectful way therefore don’t dress up as something that promotes racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. So guys, here's to having a happy, safe and non-offensive Halloween!
If you are still worried about your Halloween costume being offensive, you can do this flowchart on Refinery29.It’s a pretty good guide on determining costume dos and don’ts.