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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Showcase creativity, not racism, this Halloween

You look silly

Ah, Halloween. Nothing screams “October” more than hunting for the perfect Halloween costume. It’s as quintessentially autumn as pumpkin-flavored beverages and seriously considering taking that class pass-fail.

Picking the right costume can be tricky for many reasons – sometimes you just don’t have the time or money to come up with something spectacular. But lack of resources isn’t an excuse to fall back on racist stereotypes.

Many Halloween costumes are racist caricatures of actual, existing oppressed cultures. It’s a fact. Look at the pictures for costumes of Native American people, of geishas and sombrero-ed men. People from those cultures either haven’t dressed that way for ages or only dress like that for special, culturally significant purposes.

Look at the models wearing those costumes. They all feature people who look pretty Anglo. They are literally playing dress-up, using another culture as a costume.

“We’re paying respect to other cultures,” some may argue. No, you’re not. If you genuinely wanted to show respect to another culture, you’d do it on a day that isn’t reserved for shenanigans and soliciting treats from strangers.

There’s a term for that: cultural appropriation. I know, you don’t have to tell me, it’s kind of a mouthful. But you made it to college, so I think you can handle memorizing the term for taking a part of a culture that’s not your own.  And now I’ll break it down even further so you get what I mean.

Native Americans are still very much a part of American culture, and there are more tribes than all the times you’ve been jostled in the cafeteria. Native people go to this school, and might even be in one of your classes! I’m willing to bet that none of them wear headdresses, feathers, buckskin, or warpaint on a regular basis.

It’s racist for a non-Native person to dress as, say, Pocahontas for Halloween because this costume reduces their entire culture to a stereotypical, inaccurate, and offensive image.

Still want to wear a costume that shows off your braid skills? Dress as a Medieval princess, or go as Gretel and trick someone into being your Hansel (no, this is not “racist against white people”). If you’re more inclined to want to put random stuff in your hair and on your face, go as Ke$ha — brushing teeth with whiskey optional.

There are lots of Asian character costumes that annoy me but I’ll spare you the list. The one costume that gets me madder than a incited bull is the “geisha” costume.

On a certain level, I get why it’s so popular: girls get to look “exotic” with all that makeup, swathed in yards of embroidered fabric. I don’t think women intend to maliciously mock a custom that forced Japanese women to be ornamental and objectified in the extreme, but that’s the effect that wearing a “geisha” outfit has.

If you still want to wear pounds of makeup and look like a different yet sexier version of yourself, show up to that Halloween party as, oh, any Hollywood movie star ever. But if really want to replicate a seductive porcelain skin/dark hair/red lips look, check out pictures of burlesque performer Dita Von Teese and snag her style.

And don’t get me started on “Mexican” costumes. Spanish accents are used a lot for comic effect in popular culture, and that has leaked over into real life. I get that people cover it up with excuses about “respecting Dia de los Muertos” (or “Mexican Halloween”). But you’re not honoring them if you pretend to be a really racist caricature of them for Halloween.

Instead of going as a spicy sombrero amigo, fulfill your penchant for hats and mustaches by going as a hipster.

There are countless more examples of racist costumes, but including all of them would take too long and make my brain vomit. Most of these costumes aren’t just racist, they’re also lazy.

You can think of something more creative than a Forever 21 shirt with a sad excuse for Native American loom design as a costume. There is this magical thing called the internet that holds infinite costume ideas.