Hello and welcome back to Lady Things. I thought we'd at least be into the second week of October before we had the talk about appropriate Halloween costumes, but seeing a bunch of Trump masks displayed next to some border patrol uniforms at the Halloween store last week was enough for me to take this topic on sooner rather than later.
The thing about Halloween is that it's really easy to dress up as something offensive, but it's even easier to dress up as something non-offensive. Still, choosing something non-offensive seems to be just too hard for a lot of people, so this week we're going to go over some of costumes that should be avoided. This list is by no means comprehensive, so if you have a costume idea you're not sure about that isn't on here, you might want to do some more research before stepping out.
My oh my, people sure love to do some racist crap when it comes to dressing up like a "Mexican" on Halloween, although it's not uncommon to see this happening at frat parties year-round and of course, Cinco de Mayo. This particular Mexican stereotype, usually depicted as someone with an oversize sombrero, serape and giant mustache, was made popular in advertisements for Sanka Coffee in the 1940s and the Frito Bandito in the '60s, proliferating the idea that Mexicans are lazy, sneaky, people. When Mexican people and their children aren't stealing jobs from everyone else, they're laying around sucking up resources? Like WHICH IS IT? If you somehow find yourself presented with the opportunity to dress up like this, just think about how it might look to someone who isn't okay with you perpetuating these images of their culture.
Día de los Muertos
Goddamn, people really love Mexican stuff when it comes to Halloween, and lately Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, has been getting its turn being used in ways that are really not cool. A search on Instagram for the hashtag #Dayofthedead shows that there's no shortage of people painting their faces like sugar skulls in order to celebrate Halloween. The thing is, Halloween and Día de los Muertos are two entirely different holidays that come from two separate traditions, so combining the two is strange at best and highly inappropriate at worst.
Part of the reason why dressing as a racist stereotype or misusing religious iconography is harmful is because of anti-Mexican attitudes that are prevalent in our country today. Donald Trump denigrated Mexicans when he announced his bid for the presidency, and I can't think of any time in American history where Mexicans and Mexican Americans weren't seen as a threat or as a disposable source of labor. To put it another way, it's a problem when cultural symbols are okay, but the people who come from that culture are not.
Halloween is a particularly ripe time for perpetuating Native stereotypes, with music festival season and football season being a close tie for second. Dressing up as a costume store's idea of a Native person is a form of redface and really not cool at all for a number of reasons, ranging from cultural inaccuracy to the fact that you're once again, dressing up in a caricature of a group of people.
"But my great-grandmother was some random percent Cherokee!!!" is a common thing you hear from someone who has committed this offense. There's a couple of problems with this though. The first being that many people claim Native ancestry, usually Cherokee, based only on unverified family myth. The other issue is that even if you do have some percentage of Native ancestry, if the world sees you as someone who is not Native, and you are treated as a non-Native person by society, your whatever-percent of native heritage doesn't change that.
Nope. Never okay. People who do this are not being edgy or clever, they're partaking in a gross mockery that dates back almost two hundred years. You might remember all the way back to last year when a white University of Oregon professor wore blackface to a party in an attempt to honor author and physician Damon Tweedy, and bring attention to the lack of diversity in higher education. This is such an ass-backwards reason that I am at a loss for words, and the only thing I can say is that you do not honor someone or bring attention to an issue by dressing as a racist caricature of them.
Once again, nope. Just don't do it.
Now before you go accusing me of being the Fun Police, just remember that there's more non-offensive costumes than there are off-limits costumes. It's really not that hard. See you next week.