October 26, 2011

"We’re a Culture, Not a Costume"

It's that time of year again: the triple-holiday season that serves to remind Indians of their betrayal and oppression. First Columbus Day, then Halloween, and finally Thanksgiving.

Here's an effort to remind people of the white privilege that lets mainstream Americans dress up as minorities without criticism.

US students launch poster campaign against ‘racist’ Halloween costumesA group of students in America’s Ohio University have launched a campaign against some Halloween costumes which would hurt and humiliate people from minority ethnic groups.

A student group at the University called ‘Students Teaching Against Racism in Society’, created a poster campaign to highlight the racial stereotyping in Halloween party dresses, the Daily Mail reports.

The posters highlight the crass racial and cultural stereotypes that emerge in the Halloween fancy dress event each year.

The campaign, headlined ‘We’re a culture, not a costume’, shows images of people of different ethnic groups holding up images partygoers whose costumes they say sarcastically criticizes their cultures.
‘We’re a culture, not a costume’:  Students launch poster campaign against ‘racist’ Halloween costumes

By Damien GayleThey have provoked an online row over whether the costumes are actually racist, or whether they are just in good fun.

One blogger who wrote about the posters two days ago had to disable comments on her website after she got 3,000 views and comments from ‘rude, racist people.’

On the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind blog, Melissa Sipin wrote of the campaign: ‘These posters act as a public service announcement for colored [sic] communities.

‘It’s about respect, human dignity, and the acceptance of other cultures (these posters simply ask people to think before they choose their Halloween costume).’

She added: ‘What these costumes have in common is that they make caricatures out of cultures, and that is simply not okay.’
'We're a culture, not a costume' this Halloween

By Emanuella Grinberg"I think it's almost impossible to be ironic while being racist, so irony is lost," said Jelani Cobb, a professor of Africana studies at Rutgers University and the author of "The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress."

"To treat a character like Batman or Superman as a Halloween costume is one thing, but to treat an entire ethnicity as a costume is something else. It suggests that people conflate the actual broad diversity of a culture with caricatures and characters."

While Italian-Americans can be stereotyped as gangsters and Irish-Americans as hard drinkers, there are no pervasive stereotypes for whites on the same level that allow for them to be caricatured as a Halloween costume, Cobb said.

"The more we look at people as caricatures, the harder it is to operate as democracy," he said. "What underlies this kind of costuming is the belief that these people aren't quite equal to what we are or aren't as American as we are or that you as a person who's not member of that group should be able to dictate how painful stereotype should be."
'Racist' Halloween costumes stir debate

Ohio university group's 'We're a culture, not a costume' campaign goes viral

By Marlene Habib
Blogger slams 'Eskimo Tease' costume

New Westminster, B.C., blogger Jarrah Hodge, a UBC graduate in women's studies and sociology, said costume companies are constantly coming up "with new ways to advance racial stereotypes and cultural appropriation, and sexualize women in every single profession and identity you could think of."

On her "Halloween Post," Hodge said she recently came across a distinctly Canadian racist costume called the "Eskimo Tease." The packaging for the outfit shows a buxom and lean blond in a cropped velvety long-sleeved top, a short flared skirt, a hoodie and legwarmers—all white-fur trimmed and made of velvety light blue material.

"The term 'Eskimo,' while a highly contested term, has a racist past and is generally unacceptable in Canada," Hodge writes. "The picture on the packaging and the costume name continues in the tradition of other racist costumes like the ever-popular 'Geisha Girl' or 'Pocahontas' in implying that racial identity can be boiled down to a recognizable outfit. It's white people creating symbols to define other races, then appropriating those symbols without any acknowledgment of their history."

Farrington says there's never an excuse for making light of someone's background, even if it seems like harmless Halloween fun.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Tribalism Is Trendy and Khloe Kardashian Thinks She's Native.


Anonymous said...

It's already on knowyourmeme, too. Of course, it's more because it's somewhat narmy.

Rob said...

"Narmy"? As in "a conjunction of the words Navy and Army"?