Dear ‘old-timey Mexicans’ in oversized sombreros, ‘sexy Indians’ with feathers in your hair, and white people in turbans,
No. Just no.
I can’t believe I actually have to tell you this, but I never gave you a one-day pass to wear whatever you want, no matter how offensive.
Seriously, stop it.
Don’t tell me you can’t think of anything better than a gift shop kimono and a tub of white face paint. Is that the best you could do? I’ve seen how painfully politically correct you are the other 364 days of the year. Are you just tired of hiding your latent racism, or is your costume an attempt at some sort of ironic social commentary? Either way, fail. Not the time.
Now, please don’t get me wrong, I love costumes. For centuries, people have been dressing up for me and I truly appreciate the effort. But I don’t appreciate my day being used as an excuse to discriminate. Putting a towel on your head and telling everyone you’re a terrorist is not clever, creative, or crafty (all the components of a Halloween costume worthy of my name), it’s offensive. Every time you pull that crap, you look like a racist idiot and you give me a bad reputation.
Work with me here. As holidays go, I’m pretty down-to-earth. I give you changing leaves and apple cider, hayrides and corn mazes, jack-o-lanterns and ghost stories. I won’t empty your bank account, make you spend time with distant relatives, or force feed you Peeps. All I ask in return is that you stop treating me like a costume ball of cultural insensitivity.
It’s bad enough that the horror movies you make for me relegate people of color to play the first-to-die backdrop behind the wise white heroes. (Don’t even get me started on how you treat women in my genre.) But parading around town as a drunk ‘Aunt Jemima’ is crossing the line. If your goal is to subordinate people of color—the ultimate effect of culturally appropriating costumes—you might as well save yourself some time, just Sharpie the N-word on a t-shirt, and call it a day. When people ask you who you are, tell them you decided to dress up as your inner racist.
Or don’t. (If you’re dense and insensitive enough to think an ‘ethnic’ costume is anything other than a slur in fabric form, you probably didn’t catch my sarcasm.) Let me spell it out for you. Cultural appropriation is not okay. Not only does it kill the mood of your favorite fall festival, it is genuinely painful, marginalizing, and oppressive for the human beings you pretend to portray. If that’s what you and your friends are going for with your ‘chop suey specs’ and ‘sugar skull’ makeup, you can skip the horror movies this year because your Halloween party will be scary enough.
If, as Mark Twain said, “clothes make the man” (or woman), what do your Hallow’s Eve clothes make you? An imperialistic jerk with a chip on your (‘funky tribal’ painted) shoulder, or a compassionate advocate for non-offensive fall fun (with a bit more of an imagination)? I’m asking you, in the name of pumpkins and taffy apples, have a heart. Stop ruining my special day and leave your blackface where it belongs—in the distant past.
Written by Rachael Kay Albers