Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No Racial Drag, Please!

Title courtesy of a tweet by @disgrasian, but photo and info about the "We're a culture, not a costume" campaign courtesy of a blog post at Angry Asian Man:

I love this campaign. These posters were created by Students Teaching About Racism in Society, a student organization at Ohio University. The campaign addresses all the ridiculous "ethnic" costumes that idiotic people like to wear on Halloween, something I've had to address here for many years every time October rolls around. What a great way to create awareness around the issue.

I'm really impressed with the student group that came up with this! You can see more of their posters here. For previous posts about racist Halloween costumes, click here and here. And for musings on race-bending costumes for minority kids, click here.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm...if you take out Asian, American Indian, Romani (Gypsy), fire fighters(public service folks), hippies, any public figure or group(past/present), Vikings, Pirates, Cowboys/Cowgirls, etc......I guess that leaves clowns, fruits/veggies, animals, scary costumes.....other foods? Mustard/Ketchup? Thomas the Train?

Its Halloween guys ~ its pure fun, not a political statement with racist overtones! Get over youselves a tiny bit!

A few years back I had students dressing in garish colors, clothing, teased bangs, blue eye shadow ~ they were "80's girls"...I didn't bat an eye! Should I too have been offended that my white 1980's uprbringing was under attack? Especially since I was adopted from overseas as an infant? Oh and yes, I'm Roma too. Do I cry afoul if a little girl wears a fortune teller or gypsy costume? No. I know the difference!

Lighten up please! Its one night... and you sure don't have to participate if you don't wish to! Turn your porch light off and stay inside if it offends you so!

Wendy said...

Your white priviledge is showing anon. Just because it is okay with you, doesn't mean it is okay for others. There is quite a difference between 80's hair--which ALL ethnicities could participate, and obviously racial or racist costumes. Don't speak for a group in which you are not a part--including gypsies.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above.

Anonymous said...

Ah but @ Wendy I am Roma with ties to gypsy descendents. I can't escape my jet black hair, dusky skin and features any more than someone of another ethnic background can.

Am I entitled at least to speak for myself as this forum allows? Or does my childhood cancel out my say? Or do you also, when commenting, speak for an entire group? I contributed, as did you...leave the characterizing and editorializing to yourself please! Or at least be prepared to get some back!

In people's haste to be politically correct, personal choice, responsibility and yes, plain fun can be stripped.

We already cannot celebrate "Halloween or Christmas" per say in the schools, lest someone be offended.

Now we censor childrens' costume picks? Fine for you then....but not for us all.

All I'm saying is that its one night of harmless fun. IF IT OFFENDS YOU, DON'T PARTICIPATE!Keep your kids home. There are plenty of alternatives availible to you.

Its not mandatory!

P.S. Better add hobos and bums, Scandanavian costumes/witches/Wicca, fat suits, Scientists etc. to the list too! Would hate to offend! LOL

Anonymous said...

lighten up. geez, have we all gone too liberal? i think so.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question I wonder about, although it hasn't come up yet. What do you do if your child wants to wear a costume identified with their ethnicity?

Anonymous said...

What do you do if your child wants to wear a costume identified with their ethnicity?

Like Mulan?

I let her.

Next year she was Pocahontas.

Wendy said...

I could care less if I get it back--nor do I hide behind the non-identifying anonymous. If you are not worried what others think or feel that is perfectly acceptable to offend--put it out there (at least the rest of us will know what anon to answer to!).

Anyway, that is off the point. The whole point is that if you know something is offensive to a group of people in which you are not a part, why deliberatly offend? I don't see why it is so difficult to see that there is a huge difference between costuming a culture (Asian, Hispanic, etc.)vs a stereotype (nerd, scientist, etc.) as ANY person of ANY race could portray a nerd per se as it an overblown stereotype, not something that someone is or a part of their make up.

As for me, I choose not to offend on purpose. There will always be jerks who feel it is necessary or "funny" to make fun of other groups based on race--and yes, that is most often the purpose behind grown adults dressing as a person from another race. Don't expect to candy at my door, but know that you will get a lesson in sensitivity and if you attend my party...an escort to the door.

Wendy said...

Ugh! I wrote a response and it disappeared. Here is the gist of it.

Obviously I don't care to get it back...I don't hide behind the anon. monaker. I believe in what I say or I wouldn't put it out there.

What I don't understand is why it is so hard to get that there is a HUGE difference between wearing racialized or racist costuming (Asian, Hispanic, etc.) vs wearing stereotyped costuming (nerd, scientist, 80's, etc). One is offensive to people based on WHO they are and/or the stereotyping placed upon an entire group of people for WHO they are. The other is an overblown stereotype of who ANYONE could be. Nerd, etc. knows no race.

It is sad that some choose to offend even though they know the realities of racism--I guess the laughter from a small group of insensitive, uninformed, and ignorant friends is worth the continual degrading element that these costumes represent.

Let's face it, these costumes are typically worn by grown adults for a reason--to make fun of or to perpetuate racist attitudes. We are not talking a little girl as an "Indian princess"--her parents are ignorant in that scenerio and most likely need an education, but grown adults donning black face, Arab dress with a bomb attached--these smack of racism all the way around.

Continue to mock others if you will, as for me I will always choose not to offend.

btw--if you do wear one of these ridiculous costumes, don't plan on getting candy at my door, or if at my party expect an escort to the door.

Anonymous said...

@ Wendy...


deep breath.

Make your statement at your door if you must. Let the rest of us have our halloween fun, eh?

I think most posters were presuming these were costumes worn by kids.

I think we all "get" the difference between ethnic traits and hairstyles. I think Anon. #1 was making the point we all COULD find offense if we look hard enough. And since she/he?? is also part of that group that could be "characterized" by over the top costumes, I'm thinking that opinion warrants some merit.

Frankly I was thinking one way but after reading your over the top offense, I am now more of the "live and let live" or just sit it out if you don't like it, mindset now. Lots of religious folks object too but don't force their agenda on others.

It is a choice afterall.

Another Anon.

Wendy said...

As always, the anons throw it out there and don't have anything real to say. btw another anon--I seriously doubt anon 1 is living the "gypsy" life. Many of us have heritage from "the old country", but we don't live it. I hardly see that qualifying as having merit in the conversation. Yes, her/his opinion is just as valid as everyone else, but my pointing out the flaws does not make me over the top--it makes me a critical thinker--something that is lost so often in comments. I have nothing more...it seems pointless with the commenting crowd.

I am sorry Malinda. I love your blog, you offer so much to think about and stay informed with, but the comments lately are so out of touch with the reality that families in adoption face...basically they are becoming more dismissive instead of thoughtful. See you on facebook instead of checking and chiming in here, where critical thought is wasted.

Truly Blessed said...

I agree with Anon 1:05/2:00 I think that if people (or if entire groups of people) are LOOKING to be offended or are scrutinizing every little thing for offensive motives, then they will certainly not have to look far to have their wishes fulfilled.

I was born blond -- if I were to take offense at every single blond joke (and there are many), I'd never get anything done, I'd just be sobbing in a corner about the unfairness of it all.

Anon. 2:46 is right -- lighten up, people!

Anonymous said...

So following along with Wendy's logic, if my kids showed up to your door wearing:

ninja suit
American Indian ( Pocahontas included)
Mulan/or Asian influenced garb
Gypsy, etc.

You would turn them away?


I'm sure that would teach them a valuable lesson and wouldn't be at all traumatic. Oh but that's okay, cuz their "white" and shrouded in their privelege.

Nice. Really nice.

P.S. How many adult trick or treaters come to your door anyways?


And frankly if an adult to decides to wear that to a party, its their option to do so. Doesn't mean you have to stand next to them or socialize with them. Last year at an adult costume party we had virtually all of the above and several "Obamas" to boot. The Obama mask was worn by a black man; does that make it okay?

Jess said...

The president is always fair game.

Mike, you are talking about satirizing 1. an individual, and 2. an office (always fair). That's why I think individual Disney characters are basically OK. But both those examples differ from the stuff shown at Students Teaching About Racism in Society. Those particular posters degrade a whole group of people based on their perceived "ethnic costume"--because that's all it is.

It isn't even someone's clothes.

It isn't even "someone".

It's "them".

Malinda, I see a lot of hostility on your blog lately toward Racism 101. Wonder where it's coming from.

randomadoptee said...

Thanks for sharing this. I've post it on my facebook page,it's really meaningful :)

Anonymous said...

Those costumes are terrible. I can't believe people wear those!

Jena said...

I agree with Wendy and Jess.
"lighten up" -- Really?? must be a nice comeback to have with people when you want the last word.

I would not let my daughters wear native american costumes. race vs. occupation seems an obvious and valid distinction.


Molly W. said...

@Anonymous -- Some of the worst offenders in recent memory have NOT been kids. (Honestly, I don't think most people, even the most ardent activists, would hold a 9-year-old responsible for their costume.)

Rather, it's college kids. Google around and you can find a lot of really egregious examples of frat parties, etc., with ADULTS (albeit young ones) wearing really obnoxious and offensive caricatures of various ethnicities.

That's what this campaign is intended to combat.

Anonymous said...

@ Malinda, you are so wonderfully prolific!

I really want to comment on this and am now worried it will be lost in the sauce but here I go.

@ the various people who are concerned that we have become too politically correct. In all honesty, that is where my thoughts go first too. I mean what is the big deal? I was a cheerleader at one point in my life and am not offended when people dress up like cheerleaders.

If someone dressed up like a blond woman I would not be offended. I myself dressed like a Marriage and Family Counselor for Halloween in a very sarcastic way and wasn't worried about being offensive.

I know bad things happen to white people as well as far as racism. One of my closest friends in high school was murdered because, if are to believe what the Hispanic kids, (mostly the lone girl that was with boys) shouted before they shot her twice in the head was "kill the white bitch" My friend was with some boys who they did not harm. She was cute and blond and they probably thought she had the world on a string, that was so far from true. She was 16.

That is all true. We all have problems.

The bottom line for me though is, if someone is telling you, this hurts me. Why insist on doing it? What does it cost you to respect another person's point of view even if you can't understand it? Can you at least believe them?

Maybe not all members of a group even feel the same way. Okay, but why not respect the ones that do? Why not err on the side of caution? I have an adult child, I have no memory of any of his friends dressing up as minority for Halloween or even a bum/homeless person which was a very popular costume in my day.

It doesn't steal away Halloween, my son was an alien, a civil war soldier, a ghost, Max... most little girls only want to be princesses, who can blame them? Dressing up like a chinaman or geisha girl would have been so weird because well we live in a diverse community.

My point is, you may not understand it. You may feel there was no harm intended. Others are telling you there is, why is that not enough reason?

Although my first thoughts are with yours, what is the big deal? When I allow myself the freedom to believe what people are telling me about their experience ---I ask myself another question, what is the big deal about just having respect for other people's experience whether or not I understand it? Then quite honestly, sans defensiveness I kinda get the big deal.


Sister Carrie said...

I can't believe these comments. But I shouldn't be surprised.

Only white people say, "Lighten up, it's just for fun!" Only white people say, "You're just being politically correct." Only white people say, "If you go looking for something to be offended about, you'll find it."

Why read this blog if you don't want to learn something?

lola said...

Why is it that ANYTIME you try to gently point out racism- and even if you try to couch it as though the offending comment or action was inadvertent, you are always accused of being a "killjoy", "overly sensitive", "politically correct" (meant as an insult)? If people are saying this hurts them- and they have the right to say this- then we shouldn't be perpetuating the stereotypes. It hurts people. And there are more than enough choices in costumes out there, seriously. Don't defend yourselves by accusing others of being too sensitive. It is my feeling that compassion is always going to be the correct choice.