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Tuesday, October 25, 2011


 By now you've probably seen this poster campaign encouraging people not to dress up as ethnic stereotypes for Halloween:

I guess I shouldn't be totally surprised at the controversy around these messages, but the turn that the conversation around them took really made me feel obligated to chime in. I get the two sides; "People should get a sense a of humor/ Don't tell me what I can't do" vs.

And I'll admit I'm on the latter team. I don't really think it's funny or appropriate to dress up like an unflattering caricature of a race, regardless of the reasons. It perpetuates stereotypes and deepens the divide that prevents us from understanding and respecting other cultures, while making the wearer look like a clueless inconsiderate asshole.

At the same time I understand the other argument, to a certain extent, especially if you live in a mono-cultural community with no real exposure to actual people of these races (which is why this poster campaign putting a real face to the ethnicity is very well done). Halloween is supposed to be a time to dress up and have fun and act foolish and satirize the world- so I kinda sorta see the other side (even though I don't agree - it's totally racist).

But there was one argument/comment that popped up more than once that really blew my mind:

'If I can't dress like a bandito then nobody can dress like a ghost because I don't have a tan and I find it offensive.'

Are you kidding me? Are you really trying to equate dressing up like an ethnicity to dressing up like a spectral being? My apologies- I didn't realize that your parents were ghosts and that you were born and raised in the ghost culture, with all their rich and celebrated ghost traditions. I'm so embarrassed I reduced your proud undead history to that old stereotype of a sheet with eye holes. I can't believe that guy over there dressed like a ghostbuster! How insensitive to all the spirits they've imprisoned from your culture over the years. Shame on him.

Seriously. Ghosts are not a race. WTF.


  1. Hey! I'll have you know my ancestors might be ghosts! ... Possibly as many as all of them except my parents and 3 out of 4 biological grandparents!

    That said another friend of mine shared this on facebook and I wondered whether my samurai costume from a couple of years ago qualified as racist or not. I'm really open to either opinion, just curious.

  2. I was talking to somebody else about this on facebook - it's sort of a characters vs. stereotypes issue. I dunno. Costumes of Ninjas or Vikings or Aladdin are sort of pulled away from the debate because their seen as an homage to a warrior or character, not necessarily a costume done to comically highlight negative aspects of a race. I guess deep down there's room to be offended by any costume. I wasn't bothered by the samurai and I hadn't considered the racial aspects- because you weren't highlighting a stereotype. I dunno! This is a more complex issue than I portrayed it to be!