By: Marvin DeBose
Despite what some people may think, I’m no party pooper.
I know that Halloween is coming up and you want to have a good time.You want your costume to be memorable, you may want to get a laugh, but you might want to think twice before you buy that sombrero for your Halloween costume.
I’ve been in college, I heard about the parties where people dress up as different ethinic groups whether its a “South of the Border” party or a “hood” party. I’ve seen the pictures of people on Facebook wearing sombreros and fake mustaches.
But this is bigger than just “Mexican costumes”.
Making a costume out of any racial or ethnic stereotype is not funny, it’s not clever, and it’s never been. In fact, it’s offensive, especially to those who are members of the group which you attempt to portray.
…And having a friend of that racial or ethnic group who thinks that your costume is funny (or pretends that it is) doesn’t make it cool either.
So that means we don’t need to see any of this…
Or any of these…
And none of this either…
Now, usually when people get called out on these of costumes for being offensive, there are a common set of responses they’ll give:
1) "But, it’s just a character, it’s for fun!"
Well a ethnicity, religion, race shouldn’t be a “character”.
When people make “characters” based off of cultural groups, they use stereotypes and create caricatures of the group in question. Therefore, you’re likely to already be in the wrong when you decide to wear that costume. These kind of costumes are pretty much walking billboards saying, “Hey, stereotypes and prejudice are hilarious!”
Plus when you make a group of people into a caricature, without even realizing it, you dehumanize that group of people. How? Because you promote the concept of racial/ethnic characters rather than individuals.
2) ”Well, I’m not racist…”
Just because you don’t hate the race/ethnicity that your costume portrays, that doesn’t mean that your actions aren’t racially offensive.
Arguments of “I’m not racist, my mailman’s black” or “I’m not being offensive, I shook hands with an Iraqi man once” are dismissive of the behavior in question. That’s about as silly as someone saying, “I’m not sexist, my wife is a woman!”
When someone calls you out for racially insensitive behavior, that isn’t meant to say that you are a horrible person. It’s meant to critique (and hopefully correct) your actions which are hurtful.
Being ignorant of how you offended someone is understandable. After all, we aren’t all really taught to be culturally sensitive. However, it’s how a person goes about correcting that behavior that shows their true character.
3) ”Why are you worried about stuff like this, it’s just Halloween, can’t you take a joke?”
People who say things like this are a part of the problem too.
Just because something doesn’t offend you doesn’t mean it shouldn’t offend others. If you don’t understand why something is offensive, just ask why it’s offensive. But telling people what tobe offended about and not be offended about is offensive and condescending in itself.
Instead of simply saying “it’s just a joke”, lets ask these questions:
Why do people want to dress up and make a joke out of being another race/ethnicity so bad in the first place?
Why do people find these costumes to be so funny that they’re willing to risk offending people just to wear them?
4) "Why can’t I paint my face Black?"
You can research this one on your own… You know how to get to Google don’t you? Look up “Blackface”.
My Point is…
Get creative with your costumes. Be funny. But don’t go for cheap laughs dressing up as a racial or cultural stereotype.
Like I said, I’m no party pooper. But when the “party” consists of making a joke out of racial and ethnic stereotypes that hurt people, quite frankly, that’s a party that deserves to be pooped on.
Note: Irnoically, one of the first comments I received after publishing this post on Facebook was this:
"With all due respect, Marvin, I’m sick of all the political correctness. I don’t have a problem with this just as I wouldn’t have a problem if you wanted to dress up like a "cracker" for Halloween. Come on, people. Don’t we have bigger fish to fry than a Halloween costume?!?"
This comment was from a white guy from a small semi-rural town who I went to college with, who was known for making comments in the past such as:
"I’m not recognizing BLack History Month until there’s a White History Month"
"These savages… [In reference to Pakistanis]"
"It’s within people’s Constitutional rights to burn a cross on someone’s lawn"
…Some folks are just lost. lol
Read more and share your thoughts at http://www.themindofmarvin.com
But really why do some people do that?
Why is it the only time you feel like talking about the injustices certain white people have faced in U.S. history or the appropriation of a certain culture is when people of color are talking about their own respective issues?
Like the only conclusion I can come to is to shut them up with the bootstrap myth or “we’re all human!”
The interesting thing about the “poc never talked about stereotypes/appropriation/the mocking of white culture!” argument is that that conversation already takes place, among those ethnicities, and it’s usually presented standing on its own, not as a dismissal of issues and concerns people of color have within their own respective communities.
And the biggest factor in me saying that there’s a difference is that, from what I’ve observed on this site is that some of the people who support appropriation as a guise of sharing and ignore the imperialist and racist influences of it are white nationalist/supremacists and their sympathizers. And it’s no wonder that they support the appropriation because the concept lacks respect. Something people with that mindset would not give to cultures they deem as inferior.
I see that one of the biggest differences between cultural appropriation and appreciation is appreciation illustrates respect through learning and understanding the culture, rather than taking and possibly changing an aspect of it just because.
Appreciation =\= appropriation.
“cultural appropriation” makes no sense to me. Isn’t it more ignorant to stay within your own culture and never experience or appreciate other ones? I think embracing other cultures is something that would help prevent racism, not increase it.