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Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Costumes

There are plenty of articles about racially inappropriate costumes, yet every year folks perpetuate appropriationcaricature, and humiliation as Halloween sport. It is annual affliction, so I guess it's worth making the point yet again...

Using a culture, race, or ethnicity as a costume is not appropriate. Ever.

On Halloween, we get the opportunity to disguise ourselves as something 'other,'something different from normal, something bizarre. That people of color might be one of these costume options is tragic and offensive.

As Lisa Wade notes, Halloween outfits basically come in three flavors: scary, funny, or fantasy. Real cultures shouldn't fit into any of these categories. By using people's identities as costumes, we imply that they are 'not one of us,' or not even  fully human, belonging instead to the realm of ghouls and goblins.

In the U.S., we spend the entire year marginalizing POCs, maintaining low visibility on TV, in movies, and in the media, but then suddenly become hyper-interested in 'appreciating culture' for one offensive night (as though dressing as a Hollywood version of what you think a culture is has anything to do with appreciating it).

When we claim that it's all 'good harmless fun,' we reveal our privilege never to have to face the consequences of such stereotypes in our own lives. We reveal the power we hold to dictate who defines 'harmless' and 'fun.' We reveal how loudly our own voices are heard, even as we silence others. We reveal our capacity to imagine fantasy worlds for real cultures, while ignoring the historical baggage that makes us feel uncomfortable.

 Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) at Ohio University began a poster campaign to educate folks about the hurtful nature of racist costumes with the slogan "we're a culture, not a costume." All of the costumes they depict are real, and are perennially reprised. They get big props for concisely and clearly communicating what many of us have been frustrated with for years.

So, before dressing up this year, refer to Austin C. Brown’s guide to finding culture-appropriate costumes. And if you are looking for some clever alternatives, check out Take Back Halloween, and try some new themes this year.


  1. The foolishness has already begun people in black face dressing up as Ray Rice and his wife Janae complete with a black eye. People amused about domestic violence. And sexy Ebola hazmat girl costumes. That is equally disturbing. It's all so sick.

  2. Did something happen to my first post. I posted about the disgusting Ray Rice Halloween costumes making fun of domestic violence. And The ebola hazmat costumes making fun of the sickness and suffering of the people in Africa.

  3. Yes. It seems each year there is a new trading racist costume, and this year it's Ray Rice and Janae or Ebola. Not funny at all. :-/

  4. I am greatful for this blog it lets me know that God cares about the social issues of our culture and i love that you have a balanced perspective and that you are objective. Blessing to you. Get up the good work.

  5. truthseeker2436577@yahoo.comNovember 1, 2014 at 6:17 PM

    I agree with you 100 percent Sister Mary Burrell.


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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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