Home Opinion Opinion: Halloween hijinks need not be racist

Opinion: Halloween hijinks need not be racist

4 min read

There are a bundle of mixed emotions that come with the variety and creativity (or lack thereof) with Halloween costumes.

News emerged from the University of Colorado last week that the university had requested that students not wear insensitive or offensive costumes to Halloween celebrations. Many lamented as they seemed to think that the university had outright banned offensive costumes, which was not the case. Now there does not seem to be an issue with people choosing the costumes they please. There were not listed repercussions from the university, but instead more along the lines of strongly-worded suggestions that appealed to individuals’ decency.

As far as how acceptable a costume is, each situation should be played by hand, as students dressing up to represent a culture or demographic is not inherently demeaning. It is a holiday in which individuals dress up to represent people they are not.

Among those included that were discouraged included Indians and Cowboys, other costumes that were deemed racially insensitive, or that just negatively portrayed stereotypes, and outfits that reinforced negative stereotypes that referred to race. These types of requests could apply to a wide variety of costumes, and the lines can be blurred.

Although a school should not be able to keep students from dressing up in “blackface” or as Mexicans for the festivities, it would behoove one not to dress in such a fashion. Because really, why perpetuate stereotypes when another level of creativity is far from difficult?

Respectable organizations like STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society) at Ohio University are bringing awareness to the public with poster campaigns.

The organization made some changes to their posters this year, hoping to represent demographics that are prevalent at Ohio University, as well as demographics negatively portrayed in costume form. The posters were also meant to reflect solidarity among the individuals who were portrayed negatively or in stereotypical fashions.

STARS Treasurer Clayton Hamre noted: “The difference between a profession and a racial or ethnic group is enough to make an impact in someone’s life. Walking around, you’re not going to see someone and be like ‘oh they’re a maid, they must like dress in a sexy-maid costume,’ but unfortunately stereotypes like the ones portrayed in costumes do impact people’s perceptions more since they’re more visible.

“We’re a culture, not a costume” is quite the admirable slogan for an organization doing something good to gain public attention. And though not commending anything that amounts to censorship, I can respect a university or individual of public renown encouraging others to be respectful in their Halloween garb. Looking into different perspectives is not too much to ask from those dressing up.

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