It seems like something that we shouldn’t even need to talk about, but every year it seems that racism rears it’s ugly head around Halloween. And it may not look like bullying or name-calling . . . it’s a more covert form of racism involving appropriation and stereotypes in costume choices. Since these kinds of mistakes are usually made by an offender who claims ignorance at their faux-pas, I thought I would try to give some guidelines on avoiding racist costumes this Halloween.
1. Race is not a costume.
Do not dress as another person's race. A costume should be of a character or an individual, not of an ethnicity.
2. Do not wear racist costumes.
This one should go without saying: If you don't want to be racist this Halloween, don't wear racist costumes.
3. It’s okay to dress up as a person whose race is different from your own.
It's okay to dress as a character who is another race. It's not okay to dress up specifically as another race. For example: Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, Beyonce, Doc McStuffins: okay. Geisha girl, "Indian", an African warrior, a Mexican, "ghetto thug": problematic.
4. Let your child's interest determine their costume.
Let your child's preference, not their skin tone, dictate costume choices. Black girls are not relegated to being Tiana. Asian girls are not stuck being Mulan. Black boys can be Tony Stark, Asian girls can be Sleeping Beauty, white girls can go as Pocahontas. Halloween is about dressing as a character, not about race-matching.
5. Say no to blackface.
If you decide to dress as a individual who is of another race, skip the blackface. Our country has a long and sordid history with blackface, and it's offensive . . . even if you don't mean it that way.
6. Do not adjust features for race.
Wear a costume and a wig but DO NOT ALTER YOUR CHILD'S SKIN COLOR. Do not make skin color a part of the costume. Same for eyes . . . do not adjust them to look Asian. Again, the costume is about the character, not about dressing up as another race.
7. Don't perpetuate negative stereotypes.
If you choose to dress as someone of another race, do it because it's fun or creative or you admire the person. Not because you want to mock them.
8. Don't perpetuate negative stereotypes ON A CHILD.
Just say no to toddlers throwing gang signs, people.
9. Did I mention don't perpetuate racist stereotypes?
I'd like to have a word with this child's parents.
In some of the circles I’m in, there has been a lot of discussion about whether or not we should allow our children to dress up as people of different races. I’m still of the opinion that we shouldn’t limit our kids, but I do think there is some tension when the characters are so stereotyped that it veers into cultural appropriation.
What do you think? And what do you think about costumes and race . . . should a white child dress as Pocahontas, or is it appropriation? Should a black child be allowed to wear a blonde Rapunzel wig, or is it a negative reinforcement of white beauty standards that should be avoided? Should we steer our kids to dress up as members of their own race, or give them the freedom to explore costumes of anyone, even if it pushes against our cultural baggage as adults?