Halloween is arguably one of the most fun holidays. You can dress up like a banana, a zombie cheerleader, or even a cat. However, a certain kind of costume that is not acceptable, comes around every year. Those costumes fall into a small category: when people adopt the aspects and features of another race or culture as a costume, a joke. Some examples of this are blackface and yellowface where people will literally paint a color onto their skin to make them look like a different race. Halloween is not the proper place to display your racial microaggressions. You may not even be aware of them, most people aren’t. Microaggressions are when you say a racial slur or dress up as another race to make fun of them. Actions like these showcase how unaware our society is to the amount of cultural appropriation we experience on a daily basis. Some may take this as it not being okay to dress up as their favorite movie character of a different race, but that is not the case. Little kids can dress up as Mulan, Pocahontas, and Tiana, because they are doing it out of admiration, not disrespect. It is hard to identify when a costume goes from okay to bad. If you think someone will be offended by your costume then odds are it isn’t appropriate.
In 2012, a group of students at Ohio State University, known as STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society), made a series of posters to showcase this problematic Halloween trend. It is a series of six posters each picturing an offensive costume representing a racial stereotype, an actual person representing that racial group, and the same line: “You wear the costume for one night, I wear the stigma for life.”
And this is so true. Coming from a place of privilege, I don’t understand the type of oppression people of color receive on a daily basis; neither do any of the people who dress up as stereotypes of a culture. If you dress up as a racial stereotype, then you most likely don’t know anything about that particular culture’s daily oppression. People who don blackface or dress up as a nerdy Asian never have to live in the skin of people of color. They don’t have to wake up knowing they’ll be judged for the amount of pigment in their skin. Most people dress up as stereotypical racial figures to make fun, not knowing anything about what it’s actually like to be who they’re dressed up as. On November 1st, you can wake up in your safety bubble of skin and go on with life, but the group of people you made fun of the night before will continue to wear the skin and/or identity that you appropriated as a costume.