Halloween exemplifies the idea that for one night, you can dress up as something you’re not. Between group costumes, spot-on impressions and accents that people keep up the whole night, I believe college students can be some of the most spirited on Halloween.
Are some costumes creative and original? Yes. But there are some that go too far and can have a negative impact on cultural and racial groups. Instances of blackface, or using makeup to color one’s face to appear African-American, have been in the news lately because of the practice’s insensitivity to African Americans.
Not all costume choices are as explicitly racist or offensive as blackface. Dressing as Pocahontas or an Indian chief might offend someone who is Native American and dressing as a belly dancer might insult someone who identifies as Sikh.
One costume that I find particularly insulting is the Asian nerd, complete with nerd glasses that have squinted-eye images behind the lenses. Out of the more than 6,000 international students that came to OSU in Autumn 2014, more than 3,000 of them were Asians. We can do better than this, OSU.
Ohio University is famous for its Halloween celebrations that draw in college students from across Ohio and neighboring states. An OU organization called STARS — standing for Students Teaching About Racism in Society and founded in 1988 — started a poster campaign titled “We’re a Culture Not a Costume.”
The student-run campaign shows how Halloween costumes can impact the marginalization of cultural and racial groups. One of the posters shows a Native American woman standing beside a woman wearing a headdress and holding a hatchet. The slogan on the poster reads, “You think it’s harmless, but you’re not the target.” The student-run campaign creates awareness and holds people accountable for their costume choices, not allowing them to hide behind their ignorance.
Buckeyes, take a moment to look at your Halloween costume from another’s perspective and examine both the intent and impact and the people it might affect. If Ohio University can do it, so can we.