Seriously.

Sometimes I think college students get dumber all the time, what with all the racist theme parties and black history month “celebrations” and whatnot.  Elite universities are not exempt (in fact, it might be argued that our newest generations of white privilege are trained there).  Vox’s list got so long you had to keep pressing the scroll key.

Here’s the latest iteration of “just relax–it’s all in good fun!” with regard to racist Halloween costumes.   The writer notes as follows:

Halloween is a break from the stresses of everyday life, a chance to be careless and free for a night and wear a creative costume.

Because it’s so stressful to be anti-racist. More fun to be careless of other’s feelings and free from political correctness.

And the writer even got “Ricardo Andrade”–a guy with a noticeably ethnic name–to be quoted. Once as an employee of the store and once as a shopper and a member of a “Latino fraternity.”

But apparently “Haisten” isn’t even aware that “Chewy” probably isn’t an “alias.” Chuy is a nickname for Jesus. But some people just don’t get out much. Which we already knew.

Edited to add: “Haisten Willis” apparently took his name off this, because it doesn’t appear now. Maybe “Haisten” recognized that his stupid could be embarrassing.

15 thoughts on “Seriously.

  1. From the linked article: There were pimp costumes, which could offend African Americans.

    Because, um, pimps = African American. Yeah. No other ethnicity has ever been involved with the prostitution trade.

    I like the way that single line says a hell of a lot about the writer’s assumptions and the stereotype he carries in his head.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement. It’s difficult to remeber that you’re right sometimes when everyone disagrees. Last night I visited a haunted house, where I saw a guy dressed up as Flavor Flav complete with black pancake makeup, lips, and afro wig. When I explained to him why this was completely unacceptable, he replied he wouldn’t be offended if I dressed up as a Latina star. Oh I forgot to mention I was at the Center for Latino Culture, a supposed safe space for people of color. It always hurts more that way.

  3. Where to start?

    There were pimp costumes, which could offend African Americans.

    The store sold priest outfits that no doubt would be worn to drinking parties.

    … while many women’s costumes serve as an excuse to wear revealing clothing.

    A key and lock two-person set and a similar socket-and-wall-outlet combo obviously would not work for the LGBT community who are fighting so hard for their rights.

    As Robin pointed out, just the fact that this guy’s mind makes the leap from African American to pimp says it all. The other sentences above demonstrate that the author makes a lot of mental leaps — sure he’s trying to pass it off as “silly” jokes and sarcasm, but sorry dude, your slip is showing big time.

    Halloween really pisses me off around this stuff, and really, is it just me, or it getting worse?

  4. I went to a kid’s Halloween party last night, counted two white girls dressed as Michael Jackson, and a white boy dressed as a Japanese woman. So much for school screened parties, hah!

  5. One thing I’ve been grappling with…I have seen a lot of folks dressed up as a specific historical person, like say Cleopatra. Can this ever be considered an homage or is it always appropriation?

    I dressed up like Frida Kahlo as she portrayed herself in a portrait several years ago for Halloween and I have been feeling conflicted about it. I truly adore her but because I am not Mexican believe it was completely inappropriate. Just trying to work this one out…

  6. Gah. This is just rage-making. And it’s really everywhere- yesterday, I went to my daughter’s Halloween carnival at school, and there were two girls dressed as “Indians.” (Wearing black yarn wigs braided in pigtails, bead-and-feather headbands and your stereotypical beaded, fringed faux-rawhide leather dresses.) Thankfully, at least there were no “little geisha girls” this year (though there have been in previous years- what a delightful intersection of racism, cultural ignorance, *and* implied sexualization of young children by virtue of the fact that most people in the U.S think geiko are prostitutes!).

    I just do NOT get why this is considered acceptable. It’s not like cosplaying a fictional character (something that already made me borderline uncomfortable, but seems much more mild, given that it’s at least based on love for specific characters). “Indian” costumes aren’t dressing up as a character, it’s dressing up as a RACE. Other costumes of the same ilk are not any less offensive. Why doesn’t anyone seem to get this?

    I want to smack my head against the desk about his/her suggestion that Halloween is about getting away from stress and having fun. Yes, it is that, but since when is conscientious regard for other human beings stressful? …well, okay, I fully admit to sometimes being stressed out by examining my own privilege, because I always feel like there are things I’m not noticing and I often feel powerless to do anything about it. But there’s a difference between taking a short break from critically examining your place in society, how you benefit from it, and why that is, and throwing all human decency and sensitivity to the wind. Showing some thought and regard for other people and having fun are not mutually exclusive concepts- I can do both. I somehow doubt that that indicates I’m uniquely talented. We’re human beings; we’re good at empathy! Our entire entertainment system is based on imagining ourselves in different, more exciting or more dramatic lives through the proxy of a well-written hero or heroine. Why do people think that it’s unreasonable to ask that you do it for real people, too?

  7. Joy: I am not an authority to say, but I wouldn’t call that a clear case of inappropriateness. Your intentions seem honorable to me.

    She happens to be my favorite painter and her images cover one of the walls in my office. It is entirely about her and her art and not about me or about culture.

    My kids went as batman and ironman tonight. Their choice. I would say they are aware of race and care about it, but don’t connect these imaginary superheroes with the race of their alter egos. That has happened – my older son went as the character Aang last year and was proud that he is apparently Asian. Yeah, it will suck when he sees the damned movie.

  8. Although I agree that this article is a way out of line some costumes may or may not be depending on how it’s done. A white male dressing as Michael Jackson, okay. Dressing as Teenage Michael with black-face and curly wig, offensive. Humor at the expense of a race is racist but not at the expense of a single person. And no one dresses up as Michael Jackson because he’s black.

    Also it is possible to dress in traditional garb of a culture in homage. Dressing in costume that belongs to a particular culture that no longer exist can be wholesome it’s only when meant to be a caricature that one should question. But in regards to little boys dressing in female kimono I think the question would more accurately posed why did he wish to dress as a woman?

  9. @Anthony, dressing up in another culture’s traditional clothing as “homage” is problematic. For example, cultures such as Plains Indians don’t want anyone outside the culture wearing their traditional dress for any reason — including other Native Americans. Traditional dress often has meanings or protocol that someone from outside the culture can easily disrespect out of ignorance — even if they think they’re paying homage. And of course, many POCs resent their clothing being considered a costume. I’m saying this as a POC who occaisionally wears her traditional dress — if you want to do homage to us respect our wishes.

    I’m not saying you should never dress up in another culture’s clothing. It’s up to each culture to determine what they want or don’t want to share. After all, Bavaria seems to encourage tourists to dress up in trachten during Oktoberfest. And, I’ve worn my own traditional dress on Halloween — but not in the sense of it being a costume so much as injecting a little multiculti education into the holiday, and I knew the rules for what was and wasn’t appropriate. Still, I think you need to be very careful before wearing somebody else’s cultures clothing.

  10. @Anthony: Just looking for a clarification, because I’m a little puzzled – a white man dressing as adult MJ is okay, but not as child MJ? Is that solely because by adulthood MJ was pale enough that he seemed white re: skin tone?

  11. @Anthony
    “And no one dresses up as Michael Jackson because he’s black.”
    ______________
    There is no way for you to know that. I don’t agree, and also, the kids I saw did find matching curly wigs, they looked stupid.
    ________________________
    “But in regards to little boys dressing in female kimono I think the question would more accurately posed why did he wish to dress as a woman?”
    _______________
    I don’t think he was wishing to dress as a woman, he had make up on, like eyeliner and white face make up, it seemed obvious to me that the kid was trying to make fun, not dress up and have fun.

    Another thing that really seems to be lost, what about the kids who are absorbing this making fun of their color, hair, or ethnicity? Halloween should be for every kid to feel free of humiliation, to have their dignity intact, kids deserve the same environment that employees in the workplace are supposed to be afforded.

  12. @flower
    I completely agree there’s a line and there is common sense at when homage turns to offensive. Unfortunately, many people who dress in your people’s garb are celebrating a time that shouldn’t be given such notice and are more often than not being disrespectful without considering it.

    @Robin
    Dressing as celebrity is common and not necessarily because of their race. Putting on black face is inherently disrespectful and whether you are trying to emulate a celebrity’s look or not it is not a good reason to do such. Even if one would want to dress as MJ one could do it convincingly without painting their faces. Dressing as any age MJ is fine as long as you’re not painting your face.

    @Kathy
    IF anyone dresses as MJ because he’s black, there are plenty of other celebrities to dress as for the same reasons. Plus, dressing as MJ just because he’s a black person is in poor taste.

    In regards to the young boy, I think children’s mistakes reflect on their parents. If a child is doing something inappropriate, their parents should have noticed ahead of time and approached the situation in a way respectful way without discouraging their children to have a good time. Racism isn’t inherent, it’s taught. Finally, Geisha performed in white face paint and eyeliner and although men dressed as women in Japanese theatre and still do, the child was dressing as a woman if he was doing the same.

  13. Anthony, I agree with you that there’s nothing wrong with dressing as a celebrity of another race as long as you don’t mimic their racial features. Still, common sense is not enough to tell someone from outside a culture if dressing as that culture is offensive. For example, common sense can’t tell you that a jingle dress should never touch the ground, that in certain tribal nations only married women can do quillwork, or that certain West African fabrics have religious significance. In making, storing, or wearing your costume, even with the best of intentions, you could violate those taboos because they aren’t a matter of common sense but cultural competence.

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