By Deputy Editor Thea Lim
Well, it’s almost Halloween. And every day that we get closer to Halloween, the more our intrepid readers point out for us some of the season’s most ghoulish examples of racism. Sigh.
Carleandria sent us this link that shows you how to make your own dreadlocks wig so that you can be crafty and culturally tone-deaf at the same time.
And Brooke sent us a link to her open letter to those who would dress up as Natives on Halloween, (illustrated by a dazzling array of exquisitely racism “Native” Halloween costumes):
but when did the Native American enter the realm of Wizards, Fairies, Super-heroes, Goblins, or Ghouls? When did it become ok to reduce the diversity, language, and culture of nearly 500 different Indigenous tribes into a tacky “costume” of cheap suede, colored feathers, plastic beads, and fringe? Who decided that the history, identity, and lineage of Native Americans could be easily put on and taken off like greasy Halloween face paint?
In fact, it’s become an extremely unenjoyable October Racialicious tradition to post angry articles dissecting the politics of Halloween. In 2007 Fatemeh wrote “Reasons I Hate Halloween“:
[“Orientalist” costumes] reinforce the eroticized and/or dangerous stereotypes associated with Muslim and Middle Eastern men and women. Plus, it’s doubly insulting because (usually) white people will “play dress-up” in these costumes, to supposedly “live like we do” for one night. The only missing detail is: none of the institutional oppression that we face as Muslims and Middle Easterners comes with the costume.
In 2008 I wrote “Take Back the Halloween” (incidentally one of my most commented-upon posts ever, holla!):
So how do people who are often made to feel visually different – you know, like people of colour – experience Halloween?…those of us who are made to feel like we are visually different, or those of us who feel culturally marginalised by mainstream North American culture feel uncomfortable, guilty, angry or just plain sad at Halloween…
People of colour – especially those who grew up or live racially isolated – have a fear of being conspicuous. As much as I like attention, I also devote massive energy to trying to blend in. This effects my personality and how I present myself on a fundamental level. The regular attempt to neutralise your race is a basic part of living as a person of colour in a racist culture…the holiday where you’re supposed to stand out gives me a serious case of the heebiegeebies.
As you can see, Halloween is an exhausting time for us wee anti-racist critics. When everyone else gets to dress up and have a good time, we wind up at home, either sifting through online images of people dressed up as racists – and growing more bitter and gnarled by the minute – or we try to pretend that it is not Halloween. Usually by drinking.
But wait. I should speak for myself. I happen to know at least one Racialicious correspondent who is beside herself with excitement about a certain Mad Men themed costume. And I know of another one who blows all the racists out of the water with an amazing “Dark Captain Morgan” costume. That’s right. Look to your right.
So you can take Wendi and Arturo’s lead and find a way to enjoy Halloween in spite of the haters. Or just eat the pain away with chocolate covered marshmallows – you’ll be in good company.
The subject of one of the tips listed in this post wrote in, saying she wanted to clarify her costume, the second picture in this post. She pointed out that her wig was not intended to imitate anyone’s culture, heritage, or hairstyle, and sent in images of the full costume. The dreadlocks are actually a deep green, not black as they appeared in the picture:
And the full costume was supposed to evoke the idea of a dark fairy.
But the real reason we are posting this update is because the writer seemed to understand the basics of what we were describing in the post: that dressing up as a person of another race or with cultural markers is not ok, and she sought advice on how to convey these sentiments on her craft page. Since the picture was related to a tip, I’ll leave it up, but a better example of what we are talking about looks like this: