I’m writing to produce a dialogue pertaining to Halloween costumes. Yes, I know the topic of Halloween costumes doesn’t seem like a debatable topic or a topic that should be problematic to the students at the University of Michigan. However, like many students, as I thought about possible costumes for the upcoming festivities, I realized that there should be some discussion about what’s appropriate and not offensive. When I began pondering the possibilities, I noticed a bulletin board that added a new dimension of interest to this celebrated holiday.
The board read: “My Identity is Not a Costume.” I read “how to have FUN on Halloween and not be RACIST” and saw a list of some popular costumes, which included an “Indian,” “Arab,” a “Mexican” and “Ghetto.” I could definitely see the offensiveness of simplifying an entire ethnicity into a slutty costume, and then drunkenly joking about the silly outfit with friends, amid a diversely populated environment. Maybe the guy who puts on black face, baggy pants and bling should think twice before calling himself a “dirty thug.” Or possibly the girl wearing a suede bra and feathers in her hair should think about the implications of screaming out “I’m a Native American!”
Last year, a student human rights group at Ohio University launched a campaign to create dialogue about the issue about racially stereotypical costumes. Their poster campaign, which displayed students holding up pictures of costumes that offended their culture or race, sparked national debate for and against the “We’re a Culture; Not a Costume” campaign. Though they received many comments bashing their motives, the group expressed satisfaction that a dialogue had been produced.
I’m proposing that students think about the implications of their costumes and recognize that there’s meaning beyond the glitter, feathers and face paint. Students should continue to express their freedom to choose a costume and flaunt it, and keep in mind that many students may take the meaning of some costumes personally. Happy Halloween!