Offensive costumes are too scary even for Halloween

By Editorial Board

The air is crisp, the leaves have turned bright shades of red and orange, and Halloween is upon us. Those of us too old to go door-to-door are contemplating staying in for a Halloween movie marathon with candy we had to buy ourselves or showing off fun costumes that will scare or delight our friends. 

Some costumes have no place in Halloween festivities, though. Instead of dressing as a classic witch or ghost, some use the holiday to don offensive costumes that ruin the spirit of the season. 

On Oct. 18, People Magazine posted a list of some of the most offensive costumes of 2017. The list includes zombie versions of celebrities who have recently passed away—like Carrie Fisher or Tom Petty—and costumes that make light of current social movements, like athletes who kneel during the national anthem. It’s hard to list all the costumes that deserve to be condemned. There are the costumes that sexualize children from shows or movies; satirize the likes of Harvey Weinstein, making light of the abuse he committed; and inappropriately joke about political issues that affect thousands of families, one example being the sold out  “Border Babe” costume parodying border patrol between the U.S. and Mexico.

Obviously, this isn’t the first year with an abundance of unsuitable costumes. Insensitive costumes have become such a staple of Halloween that seeing a cringe-worthy costume is just as common as being offered candy corn. 

Even celebrities have been caught not taking the time to think of who they may be hurting with their costumes. In 2016, Hilary Duff and her then-boyfriend Jason Walsh dressed as a pilgrim and Native American respectively for a Halloween party. It wasn’t until users took to social media to express their disdain for the costumes—which perpetuate the mistreatment of Native Americans by the pilgrims—that Duff posted an apology.

When Macklemore dressed as what resembled a stereotypical Jewish person for a surprise concert in May 2014, it showed insensitivity existing year-round for the diverse cultures around us. 

We may not have to worry about costume companies marketing rip-offs of traditional Native American garb for trick-or-treaters until next October, but native communities will still have to face the same disrespect when festival-goers don headdresses from trendy shops or when sports fans paint their faces red for a Cleveland Indians game. Maybe we didn’t have to see someone dressed as a stereotype of a Mexican person on Halloween, but we will have to brace for Cinco de Mayo and the onslaught of sombreros this spring.

Not everyone who chooses to wear distasteful costumes does so out of malice. Some genuinely do not know the harmful impact of these costumes, and often they have no one to explain why a costume is offensive. Educated people have a duty to inform those who do not have the same level of understanding why their costume is offensive. 

Disrespectful costumes can perpetuate or normalize dangerous ideas, but education can prevent costume wearers from making a decision they may regret later on. Holding a dialogue about culture or race is vital in the political climate we’re facing, and the benefits of such conversations will leave us with a better world view and a sense of responsibility to respect those around us—Halloween or not. 

Some will scoff at the idea of being told their costume choices are offensive. They will claim any criticism is taking the fun out of Halloween and that political correctness has gone too far. The best rebuttal to these questions is this: “What is so great about making fun of other people’s identities?”