Amidst the pumpkin, superhero, and princess costumes, Halloween can become an aid for ignorance to emerge its ugly head through racially-offensive costumes.
Some people choose to reinforce cultural stereotypes by portraying a sombrero wearing, fast-speaking illegal alien, a sexualized Geisha, or purchasing dread wigs and other ethnic type extensions to mock black culture.
Last year, students at Ohio University were fed up with these types of mischaracterizations and created an organization to fight against it called “Student Teaching Against Racism” also known as STARS. The group’s campaign “We’re a Culture, not a Costume,” raises awareness through campus posters to emphasize how offensive and harmful stereotyped depictions can be.
STARS’ President Sarah Williams said the campaign was warmly received by about 80 percent of the student body. However, she said ten percent of students reacted negatively which she believes is “rooted in ignorance and white privilege.”
The unfortunate reality is that there are too many people who believe STARS’ efforts can dampen their fun rather than considering their detrimental influence on others.
Many people who participate in racially-offensive costuming often find ways to rationalize it. For example, a white person who may dress up as a blackface Barack Obama or in a Lil Wayne costume might think it is acceptable if they have black friends who find it entertaining by taking photos with them.
David J. Leonard, an associate professor and chair of the department of critical culture, gender, and race studies at Washington State University believes these types of passive sentiments effect how cultures view and interact with each other beyond the Halloween season.
"It just reflects how we talk about race in contemporary society," he says. "It reflects the overall belief that race doesn't matter, or that it only matters when people of color — who are accused of being overly sensitive, or 'playing the race card' — bring it up," Leonard said.
Often the common reaction to this type of reprimand is “But I’m not racist.” However, Leonard feels that this response focuses more on “Who you are” rather than “What you did.” It becomes identity based rather than action-based when participants don’t realize the influential power behind their actions.
"There's this sense of 'I don't know why people have to make it a big deal,' " said Leslie Picca, associate professor of sociology at the University of Dayton in Ohio. Picca’s book Two Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage evaluates the misrepresentation of white racial attitudes. The book also notes how difficult it is for young adults to see the implications of stereotypical costuming because they believe they are living in a colorblind world.
College students are not the only ones at fault. Stephanie Troutman, an assistant professor of women, gender, African, and African-American studies at Berea College believes adults are just as guilty.
Troutman said that the freedom of expression has clouded the harmful truths behind these actions that appear to be innocently created. She explained that within the discussion of these issues “the context, the history, and the significant matter,” is often lost.
As Halloween party-goers prepare for the holiday, Leonard hopes that “offendees” will take a stand to dismiss this behavior rather than “hiding behind a mask of ignorance about racism in America.”
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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