Rejoice, friends. One of the most wonderful holidays of the year is upon us. The leaves are changing colors, bulk-sized bags of candy are on sale and your favorite seasonal latte is available to brighten your day (for the record, I couldn’t care less about whether or not you like pumpkin spice–do you, beloved). Yes folks, I’m talking about Halloween. It’s one of the few occasions–aside from ComicCon and Mardi Gras, of course–where you’re encouraged to be someone you’re not. But here’s the thing: a lot of folks out there take that sentiment literally.
Halloween encourages creativity. I for one love a well thought out and expertly executed costume. If you’re clever, cheeky and fun I’m here for it. Trivializing people of color (POC) for your own misguided spectacle, however, falls far to the left of ingenuity. There’s also the fact that history has shown us repeatedly that imitations of POC have been used for degradation and entertaining audiences of white people for centuries.
If you’re a person that has found yourself wondering what not to do this Halloween and why, fear not. In order to help your cultivation of greatness this festivus, the following tips on how not to be racist are available here:
1. Don’t be a “rapper.”
Donning faux dreadlocs and/or blackface are two of the quickest ways to non-verbally declare the farcical assumption that Black people and Black culture exist strictly for consumption and amusement. Black people do not have a fixed existence as entertainers, which I know contradicts the taught idea that we have no value outside of fulfilling the need for a distraction. We’re far from one-dimensional, and your favorite Black artists are still human beings, so cross this one off the list and look up the history of hip-hop if you feel so inclined.
2. Don’t be an Indigenous person.
We’ve discussed this before, but it bears repeating. There’s an inherent privilege of not being reduced to a mascot or viewed as a magical creature when wearing feather headdresses and redface as a non-POC. The portrayals of Indigenous people in sports and entertainment are a far cry from their brilliance and beauty. So if this crosses your mind, find it within you to say HOW ABOUT NO, and move on.
3. Don’t be an “Arab” person.
Two things: 1) This costume practically screams off of the proverbial mountaintops that you’re okay with looping at least a dozen cultures together under one generalization, and 2) These costumes usually fall in line with negative connotations such as “terrorist,” a damaging idea that couldn’t be further from the truth if it strapped itself to a rocket and launched itself into the ether of outer space. None of us have plans to go chill with Pluto, so let’s not and say we didn’t.
4. Don’t be a “Geisha” aka an “Oriental Woman.”
Geisha culture is complex in its own right. It has a history that very few of us outside of it know intimately since it’s not our culture. This is understandable. What’s not understandable is parading perceived images of a Geisha for laughs, nor is it acceptable to loop different Asian countries together for lack of knowing (note that these costumes are often labeled as “Chinese Geisha Woman,” “Traditional Japanese Woman,” “Oriental Woman” and so on). Call: How about the Geisha costume? Response: NAH.
To be clear, the goal isn’t to punish anyone for their lack of knowledge on the many cultures of the world. If you think that this is a contest of intellectual pursuit, you’ve completely missed the point. The thing is, we’re all human. Not mascots, characters, animals and the like. And as a POC, I would much rather spend my time with friends eating candy and modeling our respective costumes instead of being angry at yet another person who decided that identities don’t matter. The logic behind not portraying harmful stereotypes can and should be applied to costumes beyond this list. This, ladies and gentleman, is how not to be racist this Halloween. Try something new and fun, just don’t try to be someone you’re not.