THE AIR IS GETTING CRISP, everything tastes like apples and pumpkin spice, and Halloween is right around the corner, which means everyone is preoccupied with picking out the perfect costume. As fun as free candy and boozy parties are, however, the joy dies whenever someone stinks up the place with an offensive costume.
Today, it doesn’t take long for a bad costume to go viral. Unfortunately, many of the people who choose to wear insensitive costumes don’t understand what they have done wrong when someone points it out. They assume that the person who called them out just doesn’t have a sense of humor, and they go on their merry, racist way.
I like to think that those people are in the minority. I’m sure a lot of people are absolutely mortified once they wake up and realize that what they did was wrong. Here are three basic rules to follow to make sure your Halloween costume doesn’t get you publicly shamed.
1. Don’t Make Light of Traumatic Crime
In 2014, video emerged of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice beating his then-girlfriend unconscious and dragging her out of an elevator at Atlantic City’s Revel Casino. The case led to domestic violence charges for Rice, who was suspended for two games as punishment. Outcry over that slap on the wrist led to changes regarding the handling of abuse cases within the NFL.
As horrific as Rice’s crime was, that didn’t stop some people from using the incident as Halloween costume inspiration. Donning Ravens jerseys and blackface, white folks seized the chance to make light of domestic violence and be racist at the same time. Some even felt comfortable enough to get their kids in on the “fun.”
Other similarly disgusting ideas from the early 2010s included costumes that made fun of Trayvon Martin’s murder, Robin Williams’ suicide, Joe Paterno’s and Jerry Sandusky’s rape victims, Chris Brown’s violence toward Rihanna, and the Boston Marathon bombing.
This year, the mugging of Kim Kardashian in a Paris hotel room is sure to be high on the group-costume list. Other just plain terrible ideas include Dylann Roof and the mass-murder in Charleston, Jared Fogle and child pornography, Donald Trump or Bill Cosby and their victims, Brock Turner, and any racially motivated police shooting. If you’ve been planning a ripped-from-the-headlines costume, it’s time to re-evaluate.
2. Don’t Be a Racist Caricature and Don’t Culturally Appropriate
Seriously folks, it’s not that hard to tell if your Halloween costume is a racist pile of sh*t. If your costume is based around another person’s culture — yes, my fellow white people, this includes your beloved Day of the Dead costumes — it’s probably racist.
I use the term “culture” loosely. After all, Native American women don’t wear war bonnets, and most Mexican people don’t have long mustaches and wear ponchos, but there are myriad commercial costumes available that mash up pieces of a marginalized group’s identity in the worst possible way. And even if you think you’re being respectful in your Sexy Dragon Lady Geisha costume, trust me: you aren’t.
Here are a few things that mean your costume is definitely racist:
- It includes a wig in a textured hair style, such as dreadlocks, cornrows, or an Afro.
- You think, “Hey, I could get really tan or paint my skin to make this believable.”
- It makes you wonder what the history behind a certain aspect of another culture is.
- You think, “Hey, I should totally learn to pull off winged eyeliner to make myself look Asian!”
- It’s marketed as being another person’s identity, e.g. Native American, geisha, Rabbi, or “Arabian princess.”
- You think, “I wonder if this is racist.”
Yes, Virginia, it is racist. So don’t wear it.
3. Don’t Be a Dead Celebrity
Y’all, we need to have a come-to-Jesus moment about this. Yes, I know that zombies are everywhere right now and you really want to dress up like your favorite extra on The Walking Dead. And what better way to do that than to dress up like a zombie version of one of the many beloved celebrities 2016 has claimed, amirite?
Nope. I know it’s easy to forget that celebrities are people, but hear me out. All the famous people who inspired you before they kicked the bucket? They have families, and their families have the Internet. They see your shitty “Zombie Prince” costume, and I seriously doubt they find it funny. I mean, would you?
If you must dress up like a deceased celebrity, style your costume according to who they were when they lived, as they lived. Don’t make fun of their deaths as if their lives meant nothing.