Don’t Be Racist This Halloween: An Open Letter To Costume Enthusiasts

by Dawn Day

Dear Halloween Enthusiasts (From fraternity brothers to grandmas to 30-year-olds who still trick-or-treat),

Every Halloween, caught in the excitement of trying to make this year of spooks and splendor greater than the last, there is always a desire to be unique and different. Whether you find yourself dressed as a sexy tampon or a grape with your body covered in balloons, I hope that this letter encourages you not to be one specific thing: a racist.

Post-Halloween horrors sometimes are worse than the ones that pop out in the corridors of your local haunted house. Horrors like pictures of Halloweens past with people dressed in black face, or donning a Native American headdresses or one of the recent worst, wearing clothing to liken the image of shooting victim Trayvon Martin. Not ok. 

This year has even kicked off with a story about a student dressing up like Nicki Minaj, complete with blackface, and it’s only Oct. 29.

There’s such a prominent presence of racist Halloween costumes that there is even a blog, Fuck No Racist Halloween Costumes, dedicated to highlighting culturally insensitive attire that tempts the population. From “China Man” to “Bolly Ho,” it seems as though the spirit of Halloween has been reduced to people blindly putting on whatever they think will spark a laugh. Native Appropriations, a website dedicated to combating the stereotypes and cultural appropriations of Native peoples, presents a series of blogs each year around Halloween that explain why it’s a problem to dress up in feathers an strips of leather, and call yourself an “Indian” for the night.

“These costumes are hurtful and dangerous because they present a false and stereotyped image of Native people. The public sees these images, and it erases our current existence, so the larger, contemporary issues in Indian Country then cease to exist as well,” Adrienne Keene writes on Native Appropriations. “When everyone only thinks Indians are fantasy characters put in the same category as pirates, princesses, and cartoon characters, it erases our humanity. Have fun thinking through that one.”

So as to not eliminate the humanity of a group of people, let’s try sticking to some fun, classic or creative costumes this year—ok? It’s more likely to get laughs if you dress as a pun or cool feminist icon instead of as Kanye West in blackface (like this teacher).

Here are a couple of guidelines to stick to when it comes to avoiding offending the world with your spooktacular attire.

1. Don’t wear blackface, or whiteface, or redface…. probably just don’t try to change the color of your skin. Even if you are dressing as your fave celeb, and you don’t have their skin color (i.e. Beyonce or Nicki Minaj) it’s easy to wear identifiable outfits or iconic accessories that will make it clear that you are reppin’ the likes of your idol, minus the racism.

See? Wasn’t that easy? Costumes, not blackface!

2. Be conscious of what you are wearing, and recognize how it could be offensive to another culture, or people. For example, don’t dress like a Native American, an Arab or a thug and think that it is entertaining to poke fun at the history of other cultures.

3. If you are a parent, guide your kiddos in the right direction—so maybe don’t have them dressing like a suicide bomber. This is stereotyping what a terrorist looks like, and is actually just so disgusting that I titled it gross.jpg on my computer.


4. And definitely, by all means, don’t dress up like someone who was shot to death. A person dying isn’t funny or a joke. The Internet erupted in 2013 when the photos of people dressed as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman surfaced on social, and it became clear to everyone that, yes, people are disturbed enough to go there.

Alas, to my friends who are ready to enter a different reality by suiting up in a alter-ego for the evening, go out and enjoy the night of spooky splendor while happily knowing that your costume—be it funny, sexy or scary—is most definitely free from racism.


Your friend, a concerned Halloween enthusiast

Photos via Vibe, Twitter/@febreezanator, Party City, Flickr/Ei Malaca and Facebook/KT Cimeno

More from BUST

 10 Witch Movies and TV Shows To Watch This Halloween

5 Scary Short Stories By Badass Women Writers

This Halloween, I’m Not Dressing Up In Shame: BUST True Story


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