I remember the last time I dressed up for Halloween. I was 6 years old and my mother decided to dress up me and my twin as Disney princesses.
Needless to say, all I remember is almost fainting from the layers of tulle wrapped around my tiny lower body and then getting egged in the face on my way home from trick-or-treating.
I still flinch at the sight of egg yolks.
After trashing my Cinderella costume, at that very moment the thought of pretending to be someone else seemed just as absurd as the egg residue burning my eyes.
Recently, BuzzFeed did a social experiment through which Native Americans and other ethnic groups confessed how they felt about costumes mimicking their cultures.
Many of them were even amused at the thought of clothes used to express spiritual or festive sentiments being packaged as overtly feminine costumes such as “Chief Hottie Body.” I guess those Halloween costume vendors decided to forgo the accuracy of ethnic garments and instead opt for a cheap, corny stereotype.
I get that the anticipation behind Halloween comes from being able to dress up as anything or anyone with no limitations or judgment, but people should be cognizant of their costumes when it mimics a specific culture. During Halloween, costume suppliers such as Party City have claimed that they respond to the demand of their customers by marketing certain facades.
In other words, the types of costumes offered at Halloween stores reflect the curiosity of customers.
While I don’t think being curious about someone’s culture is a bad thing, there still needs to be a portrayal of respect for that culture. It’s only right to show regard for a custom you want to mimic — even if it’s just for a day.
During the 19th century, theater actors would imitate African Americans by painting their faces black and elongating their lips to exaggerate their facial features. This makeup practice was known as blackface, and it was used to perpetuate fixed stereotypes in the minds of audiences all over the country. It ostracized blacks from being a part of theater programs even if it was to play their own characters.
Much like blackface, certain Halloween costumes actually reject culture in an unappealing manner, all in the name of fun and games.
Just because you decide to dress up in the eclectic body suits and wear the same colorful wigs as Nicki Minaj, doesn’t mean you have to paint your whole face brown to accompany the look. Besides, if your faux donk doesn’t do enough to sell the idea of your look, then a brown face most certainly won’t.
I understand that for most students, Halloween is the only time of year when they can revel in the fun of pretending, no matter how weird the costumes. But with pretending to be someone else comes the responsibility of making sure you’re not offending them.
So the next time you decide to tie that leather cloth around your torso, claiming to be a Native American chief, or cover your face with a black scarf while wearing a skimpy skirt mirroring a sexy Arab, remember that these pieces of clothing are more than your satirical antics. They are paramount to the identities of many of your peers.
I mean, what if someone else knocked on your door screaming “trick or treat” and to your surprise, you’re met with someone exaggerating your identity, mocking your voice and mimicking your heritage?
You would probably be tempted to smite their wardrobes with a nice large egg, kind of like the ones that smacked my miniature face and sogged my candy cargo.
Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.