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Friday, October 23, 2015

Race Specific Costumes and Political Correctness

Easy Peasy Clark Kent Costume from Dragoncon 2014
As Halloween grows closer, so does the conversation of racially insensitive costuming.   I touched on this briefly yesterday with Halloween Costumes vs. Cosplay, but the subject requires deeper thought. The reason it needs further discussion is that there are a lot of mixed signals out there as to what is correct and what it not.

For example, white people are being asked to not dress up as "Indians", but at the same time, black people are dressing up as any white character they please... so what gives?  It's simple.  People are just being asked to not dress up in anything that disrespects a culture and makes them feel like a stereotype.  Here are some examples to be considered.

1. Native American Costumes: First, there is a difference between dressing up as a Native American and wearing an Indian costume. As Native American's have pointed out very clearly, wearing shredded rags and assorted beads is not a proper costume.  Neither is carrying a tomahawk and making noises while patting your lips with your palm.  Native American clothing has meaning, from the beads to the fabric, and if you are going to try to embody a Native American, and I strongly suggest you don't do it for Halloween, which is supposed to be lighthearted and fun, do it in a way that honors a particular historical figure; not in a way that mocks a stereotype of an entire people group.  Oh, and while we are at it, please avoid other stereotypical costumes such as a pimp, a gypsy, a hooker, a rapper or thug, and etc.

2. Black face: For the love of God, no! Just don't do it.  If you disagree with this strong suggestion, perhaps you are not educated about why blackface is offensive.  Here is the wiki page on Blackface and here is a clear explanation on why it should not be done. My best explanation is that there is no difference between blackface and the rebel flag.  (They both give us black people the willies.... or evoke rage.) Also, you can easily costume as a person of a different race without painting your skin.  Black people do it all the time, especially since most costume options sold in stores are lighter skin characters.  It's just not necessary.  If you and your friends really, really, want to dress up as the Jackson 5, just get some wigs and crazy, crazy outfits and you're good.  We will get it!  Thanks.

3.  Sexy children costumes: Umm... why?  There is no reason for a 12 year old to show the entire length of her leg to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.  Frankly, I think parents can do better than to give in to the whims of children, and the marketing of the costume industry.  Instead of buying a Dorothy costume, head to the thrift store for a blue dress, buy the red shoes online, and braid the hair appropriately.  All it takes is some imagination to keep your kid from going out on Halloween looking like a street-walker... literally.   Or better yet, come up with a real live historical person your daughter admires and have her dress as that person.  Here are some ideas.

4. Death: Ok, I hate, hate, hate Zombies, but that's not my problem.  Please don't dress up as dead people.  Some of the worst costumes that fall into this category includes Trayvon Martin,  Any celebrity that has recently committed suicide with a belt around their neck like Robin Williams, Zombie Joan Rivers, and anything depicting domestic violence, aka Ray Rice.

So what can you wear?  Well, it's Halloween, so you can't be too scary, and then there's tons of historical and superhero stuff too.  So have fun out there, but be sensitive!

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