Is My Halloween Costume Appropriate?

By: Leila MireVia i.ytimg

If you’re anything like me, Halloween is one of the greatest holidays of the year. I mean what other holiday allows you to gorge candy profusely and unapologetically? However, it’s also a time when attempts at clever costumes become racist and offensive. So to help with your costume brainstorming, here is a checklist to determine whether your costume idea is a good one...or an ill-fitted one.  

1. Does it portray an inappropriate stereotype?

The first question to ask yourself when picking out a Halloween costume is whether or not you’re feeding into a whitewashed or inaccurate stereotype. Unfortunately, in our day in age this problem presents itself more often than I’d care to admit. For example, if it’s a marginalized group you’re portraying with the word “sexy” in front of it...chances are, it’s offensive. So maybe hold off on the “Sexy Indian” costume. It’s also worth noting that using a whitewashed interpretation of a character like Pocahontas diminishes a culture whose lives have already been impacted by whitewashing. And just in case it needs to be reiterated...don’t, in any circumstance, think that blackface is a good idea. It was racist in the Jim Crow era...and it’s racist now.

Via halloweencostumes

2. Would you wear it around that group of people?

The next question to ask is whether or not you’d be comfortable in your costume around the people you’re portraying. This generally refers to costumes in which you’re dressed as a certain group. For instance, a geisha, Mexican with a sombrero, or Arab might get awkward around that group of people. Why you might ask? Because it’s feeding into stereotypes that marginalize them. So maybe instead of picking a super-racist costume unfairly depicting an ethnic group, think twice. Or better yet, go see someone about that.

Via mariamadeyemiblog

Related: Halloween Costumes for the Procrastinators 

3. Don’t portray a culture you know nothing about

If you’re going to be bold enough to marginalize a group of people, then you should at least have knowledge of the culture you’re dressed as. Of course, Americans believe in freedom of speech. However, an abuse of that freedom threatens the very democracy we claim to stand for. So, by reminding ourselves that “we’re a culture, not a costume”, we remember that everyone is created equally and should practice a cultural sensitivity to respect our innate equality.

Via halloweencostumes

4. Does it reaffirm power structures?

Next to consider is whether or not your costume merely aids in power structures already at play in American culture. Halloween’s historical essence lies in its carnivalesque roots. Halloween was a time to invert power and poke fun of the dominant social structure. Therefore, when we choose costumes from an oppressed culture, we’re just reiterating and reinventing the current power structures that are already in place.Via abcnews

5. Why is it funny?

The final thing to ask yourself is what makes your costume funny? Does it stem from a joke about a population that is based on an unfair social construction? Is it making light of a group or individuals who have suffered from unfair treatment? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you may want to continue brainstorming.

Via refinery29

All this being said, use your best judgment. While freedom of speech is an American right, we also stand for decency. So be an advocate for those less inclined to consider the implications of their costumes and if you have a debatable costume, then know that you’ve brought it upon yourself and should be willing to partake in a conversation about it.