As Halloween rapidly approaches, we look forward to binge eating candy, watching horror films and seeing completely racist costumes. Unless you live under a rock, you know exactly what costumes I’m talking about. The ones where pasting on a fake mustache and a sombrero makes you a Mexican or the ones where you can paint your face “black” and finally dress up like Kanye West for a day. Yes, sometimes the scariest thing about Halloween is not the jumpscares but the rampant racism seen everywhere.
Now, I am completely fine with cultural appreciation, but wearing the identity of another racial or ethnic group as a costume is not appreciation, it is appropriation.
What exactly makes dressing up as these groups scary, exotic or humorous? Absolutely nothing, but in a society that paints whiteness as the standard of normalcy, it leaves racial and ethnic groups at the risk of being perceived as strange and foreign.
Thus, these costumes can be seen as joke-worthy when in reality they perpetuate negative stereotypes and stigmas.
Your Sexy Indian Princess costume contributes the already existent fetishization and exotification of Native American women. It helps contribute to the fact that one in three Native American women will experience rape in her lifetime, according to the United States Justice Department. If you want to wear a sexy Halloween costume, that is your choice and I would never shame you for it. However, by adding the cultural element of the sexy Native woman or even the sexy Mexican woman you are contributing to women of colors exotification, something that has roots in colonization and rape from white settlers.
If you are wearing a Black thug costume or Mexican man costume to be funny, examine what exactly do you find humorous? Is it perpetuating the idea that Black men are violent, dangerous criminals, a stereotype that leads to their deaths at the hands of police brutality?
A harmless costume that disguises the fact that Black men are twice as likely to be killed by law enforcement. Yes, I assume that must truly tickle your funny bone.
Or if that doesn’t leave everyone rolling with laughter, maybe it’s the way your Mexican costume leaves you open to being called a rapist, drug dealer, or killer by your own president. There is nothing funny about these costumes, instead, they only reinforce how prevalent the problem is.
If you are wearing a costume culturally based off other racial or ethnic groups, recognize that while you have the privilege to live within that “costume” for a day, the groups you appropriate have no escape. They have to live with forms of discrimination and persecution that you will never experience. You will never be seen as a savage or primitive for dressing up as a Native American princess and you will never be seen as a drug dealer or job thief for dressing up as a Mexican.
At the end October 31st, you get to shed your costume, while millions still struggle. I beg of you, do not dress up as a caricature of someone else’s culture, it trivializes the pressing issues these groups face on a daily basis.