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'Dressing' the issue: Getting fly on Halloween without getting offensive

by The Stylus Staff
Tue, Oct 24th 2017 09:00 pm

Halloween is right around the corner and nothing is more frightening than an offensive Halloween costume. With each passing October, we find more and more controversial costumes are designed, advertised and sold under the guise of Halloween. 

Every year, companies like Party City attempt to slowly creep past the line of decency, ignoring morals and going full racist with Halloween costumes. 

Just this year, Party City sold a costume that was a brick wall tunic with white spray paint that said “THE WALL.” It was a clear reference to President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico to curb illegal immigration, a fundamentally flawed and intrinsically racist project Trump continues to push. 

Cultural appropriation is found in costumes at all times of the year, but most specifically during Halloween. Children costumes of bastardized indigenous people often float around after Halloween and into the Thanksgiving season, while some adults can take things as far as black face. The line keeps being crossed, and driven further back in the sand. 

The line must be drawn right here. Black face is not okay. Cultural appropriation in costumes is not okay. It has no place in our culture, especially on a college campus. 

As college students, our goal is to educate ourselves and be receptive of other people’s experiences and stories. 

To wear a culturally insensitive or generally offensive costume is counterintuitive to the entire point of being here. Ignorance has no place on a college campus. 

Halloween reveals the stereotypes that have been used for decades. It supplants them in plain view to the point where people don’t even recognize it. Cultures are not costumes for others to wear and consume as such. 

You can choose to wear literally any costume you want. You could be a plate, a hot dog, a window or even a dragon, and you chose to be something that could offend people? Are you 12 or do you just hate people who are different from you?

Sometimes, costumes get caught before they even hit the market. Some companies are pretty good at spotting cultural appropriation in their own designs once it’s leaked to the public and people start tweeting at them.

Disney pulled costumes from their hit film Moana last year after people complained about the tribal tattoo arm bands with accented brown skin that came along with them. Moana featured descendents of Pacific indigenous people and the costumes were meant to look like them. Disney pulled the costumes and apologized.

Yet, for some people, pulling the costume is the outrage. There are people who believe culturally insensitive costumes should be sold. When Disney pulled the Moana costumes, people flocked to message boards, calling people protesting the costume social justice warriors. 

Sure, they might be social justice warriors, but being a social justice warrior is better than an idiot defending a racist costume.

It can be argued that culturally insensitive Halloween costumes arise from ignorance rather than pure malice. After all, many don’t want to believe the stereotypes they hold are actually damaging, but rather a coping mechanism that helps them get through everyday life. 

It might be an acceptable excuse if you’re in middle school, but we’re all in college and we can boast our college educations. We should all know better by now and ignoring common decency for a costume is outright malice and aggressive. 

Parties that are blatantly disrespectful to marginalized people occur across the nation. You’ve all seen the underclassmen coming back from jersey parties nearly every weekend, but imagine a jersey party where students dressed up like famous black leaders instead. 

Tau Kappa Epsilon at Arizona State University held a Martin Luther King Jr. party where students dressed in blackface and drank from watermelons, throwing up gangs signs with each other and tagging them ‘#ihaveadream’.

 An incident like that cannot arise out of ignorance, it’s a hateful and disgusting gathering.

The exploitation of marginalized people reaches beyond just parties. A Spirit Halloween store in Saskatchewan, Canada refused to pull costumes of indigenous people last year. Some of their costumes included “Reservation Royalty,” “Native American Princess,” and “Wolf Dancer.” 

The local community fought back with warning stickers about how offensive the costumes are, as well as a paragraph about the 4,000 plus missing indigenous women in Canada. 

Sainsbury’s, a department store in Oxford, England, dressed a mannequin as a slave next to copies of “Twelve Years a Slave” last year to raise profits. They removed the display after it went viral on Twitter and caused significant backlash.

The key to stopping culturally insensitive Halloween costumes is knowledge. People cannot feign ignorance if they’re confronted with the facts, and offensive Halloween costumes are just plain unacceptable. If everyone knows, people will stop wearing them, right? 

Don’t let your friends buy offensive costumes. Don’t let your friends make offensive costumes. Don’t make offensive costumes yourself. 

Halloween is meant to be a time of acceptance and appreciating different people and their diverse backgrounds.By allowing these kinds of behaviors to continue, we are only promoting the idea that cultural appropriation is okay and that some cultures are just better than others. 

If you’re offending other people, then not everyone is having a good time, and the goal of Halloween is to have a good time. 

Have a good time and just be respectful of everyones feelings. You can still be fun and funny without being disrespectful and inconsiderate of others.


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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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