The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The costume you should NEVER, EVER choose for Halloween

I am going to start by saying I love Halloween. I always have. I love the candy, the costumes, the movies, the all around eeriness and especially the discounted candy sold in the days that follow. However, recently I’ve been noticing a trend that is sucking some of the all around awesomeness out of this holiday that I love.

This is not a, “Oh my goodness, girls today wear costumes that are far too revealing,” article I promise. This is a “please for love of god don’t EVER dress in blackface for Halloween” article.

I wish I didn’t have to write this article. It pains me that after years of what many people consider progress towards racial equality I have to write this, I’d honestly rather be gorging myself on Halloween candy than writing an article about something that, to me, just seems so obvious.

I have a sense of humor, I like to laugh, and I don’t feel like it’s my job to go around policing other people, but after seeing a picture of a young man wearing a bloody hoody in blackface dressed to look like 17-year-old Trayvon Martin standing next to another young man wearing a neighborhood watch shirt, clearly meant to be George Zimmerman, I feel I have to say this. Whatever your intentions are, it’s not okay to paint your face brown, cover yourself in “bling,” and masquerade as a black person for Halloween. It’s tasteless, it’s insulting and it’s wrong on so many different levels.

“But why?” Some of you may be wondering. Part of the fun of Halloween is the chance to be something you’re not for one night. It’s just a joke, some of you might say. Respectfully, anyone who says or thinks that is sadly mistaken. The history of blackface is ugly and hurtful.

Let’s rewind back to the 1800s before television and internet minstrel shows were all the rage. In the 1800s white actors would paint their faces black and give themselves exaggerated features e.i. big mouths and big white lips.

For the entertainment of white audiences, the actors portrayed caricatures about free African-Americans and slaves that embodied pretty much every stereotype about black men and women: sexually aggressive, violent, lazy, unintelligent and to be kept away from whites at all costs. One minstrel show caricature in particular became so popular that it was eventually used as the name for perhaps some of the most oppressive and discriminatory laws in our nation’s history: Jim Crow.

When you’re black or brown in America, finding a costume can be tricky because often there are not many characters who look like you. I love superheroes and over the years I’ve been almost every female super hero from Supergirl to Wonder Woman, but not once have I, as a black person, ever dressed in “white-face” to portray these characters, and I don’t ever plan to because it’s tasteless and unnecessary among other things.

I’m not implying that every person who chooses to make the choice to dress in blackface for Halloween is an evil, KKK-hood-wearing, cross-burning-on-lawns racist. I’ll acknowledge that some people really don’t understand why dressing in blackface is hurtful and insulting because they have different histories.

However, no matter what your intentions are, if you dress in blackface or pretend to be any other race that has long suffered societal and systematic discrimination, you are displaying racism. Think about it, would it be okay to dress up as a holocaust survivor on Halloween?

Halloween is a time for fun, costumes and sugar highs. It’s not an excuse to mock others’ cultures, identities and tragedies. You want to dress up as your favorite rapper, tv character, or maybe our current president? Go for it! But don’t paint your face to resemble the race of that person or character. Although race may be a part of who a person is, it doesn’t make up the entirety that person or character.

So next year, please be a zombie, a ghost or a homicidal 1950s housewife like I plan to be, but please for the love of god, do not dress in blackface or paint your face in any way to resemble a race you are not. Please don’t ever make me have to write an article like this again.


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