I’m Not a Costume: STARS and the Campaign Against Racist Halloween Costumes

Most of us have spotted it on Halloween night: the Racially Insensitive Costume. The kind that makes you want to avert your eyes and feel empathetic embarrassment for the dressee. Within the Halloween sea of sexy [insert plural noun], you’ll spot the occasional person dressing up in yellowface, blackface and other “faces” associated with various races and ethnicities, from the “geisha” and the “illegal immigrant” to the “terrorist” and other stereotypical caricatures of race and ethnicity.

In response to these unsavory costumes, Ohio University student group, STARS (Students Teaching Against Racism in Society) recently put together a Halloween poster campaign with the tagline, “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume.” The five posters feature individuals of different races and ethnicities holding up signs that depict people dressing up as racial and ethnic stereotypes — an Asian/American student holds a picture of a woman in yellow face wearing a kimono, white face paint and black wig; a Native American student holds an image of a man with face paint, a feather on his head and a sign that reads “Me wantum piece [sic] … not war.” Above the image is the sentence, “This is not who I am, and this is not okay.”

I am totally in support of this campaign. And while the blog post containing these posters has been widely re-blogged by mainstream websites like The Huffington Post and Jezebel, what has bothered me the most is people’s negative responses to the campaign. Most individuals don’t seem to understand why the “We’re A Culture, Not A Costume” campaign is important or relevant — often to the point of angry reaction (“Why are you trying to control the costume I’m going to wear?” and “You’re too sensitive!”) to shameless parody (such as the campaign’s spin-off meme, listed on KnowYourMeme.com).

The responses vary, but generally range from the “I don’t see how this is offensive and I’m going to equate race with some arbitrary / fictional group” (like this comment on Clutch Magazine):

ugh seriously….people are so sensitive nowadays!! Its Halloween!! I wonder what kind of backlash I’m going to get from the turtle species for dressing up as Leonardo from TMNT.

Problem: Equating people of color with turtles.

To the “let’s make fun of the discrimination that minorities face and equate it with the ‘struggles’ of a nonexistent / arbitrary / majority groups” (like this, from the Know Your Meme comment thread):

Every year, on Halloween, I see people walking around, dressed as though they are Zombies […] Do you think that’s funny? It’s isn’t. The Walking Dead didn’t choose to be that way […] And yet, still I see walking hate crimes, laughing in the face of the social status that Zombies have attained after years of discrimination, humiliation and dehumanization.

Problem: Equating people of color with fictional monsters; mocking the efforts of people of color to acquire civil rights.

And the “why is racial sensitivity relevant? I’m [insert nationality] and I wouldn’t be offended if you dressed up as people from [insert location]” (as found on The Huffington Post):

I went as Cleopatra one year–should Greeks be offended? […] I’m of Hungarian, Russian, and Polish ancestry. Would I be offended if someone dressed up like that? NO! So few people even know anything about Hungary that I would be impressed if they even tried an authentic costume!

Problem: Assuming there is anything even remotely authentic about these costumes.

And even the “the perpetuation of racism is not my problem, it’s your ancestors’ problem” (as seen on Jezebel):

I refuse to act differently because of the actions of former white people (not my family, who were indentured servants and little better than slaves). [Dressing in blackface is] human and it’s not malicious. Our history is not yours. Please don’t impose it on us.

Problem: Racism? What racism?

The thing that unites these responses is people absolving themselves of responsibility for perpetuating racial stereotypes, whether it’s “we shouldn’t be sensitive about race,” “the problems associated with discrimination aren’t real” or “racism is not my problem.” There’s a disconnect here where people don’t realize that the perpetuation of racial caricatures like “the geisha” in Halloween costumes means perpetuating an assumption about people of a certain race — that an Asian woman (“the geisha”) is quiet, demure, sexually available, subservient and naïve. You’re not dressing up as an Americanized, somewhat derogatory, not at all historically accurate version of high-class Asian prostitute in a vacuum. You’re presenting a culturally derogatory image of a woman, and this notion of the “geisha” is mapped on to every Asian / American woman.

I won’t be the first person to say that I look Asian just about every day of the year. And because of this I’ve been approached by men randomly on the street who will try to take me aside and say things to me like, “I love your black hair and your white skin” or “Talk to me like you talk to your people” or “I love women like you.” They’ll even try to kiss me when I’ve never seen them in my life (true story: some of the guy’s spit landed on my face before I managed to dodge his mouth; I rushed to the nearest bathroom to wash my face eight times with soap and was late for class). This happened a lot particularly when my hair was long — I’d be accosted from time to time by random people, or by people I knew who creepily wanted to date an Asian girl. It’s been happening from high school to present.

People have automatically assumed several things when they have accosted me: 1.) I don’t know how to speak English. 2.) I am automatically straight. 3.) I am sexually available. 4.) I am demure to the point of dudes shoving their lips in my general direction and assuming that I’m totally okay with it. Where are these assumptions coming from? GEE I DON’T KNOW.

The same thing happens with the other racial stereotypes noted in the “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” campaign. People of color become stereotypes, and stereotypes affect the way people of color are treated. Playing in to racial stereotypes for even one evening out of the year is perpetuating an uncomfortable system of oppression, where individual people become concepts, stereotypes and objects of ridicule. Honestly, if the “geisha / Asian girl” stereotype is taken to its logical extreme, the conclusion is unsettling — I become an exotic sex object open to (and receptive of) sexual advances, domination and possession by other people. The power dynamic inherent to this stereotype is ultimately terrifying.

The problem with racially insensitive Halloween costumes: While people who dress up as racial stereotypes might be able to take the disguise off the day after Halloween, people who are minorities can’t. And the resonance of everything from a geisha to a terrorist stereotype persists long after the end of October.


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Whitney is a lover of food, books, comic books and journals made for left-handed people. She is a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University, where she studies video games and new media. She is also a graphic designer, writer and editor who has worked for places like Opium Magazine, Literary Death Match, Publishers Weekly and The Feminist Press. Check out her blog at whitneypow.com and follow her on Twitter @whitneypow.

Whitney has written 51 articles for us.

438 Comments

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    My friend, who is Arab, is dressing in some traditional Middle-Eastern clothes he has from Oman. I feel like this is okay because a) he’s Arab b) they’re actually Omanni clothes (although they wear jeans there too) c) he’s celebrating his heritage

    I mean, people often mistake him as being Black sooo… some Arab person might think he’s making fun of the culture. Which is why I wouldnt do it, because I’m pretty light-skinned (half-arab) and don’t want to give the wrong impression.

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      Also, I’m seriously disgusted about how you were fetishized. That’s probably one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s like take regular objectifying you have to deal with… and then multiply that by 3.

      Alsoalso, someone once said to me “lol you’re like my personal Kim Kardashian”

      1) I look nothing like her
      2) Fuck you.

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    OMG, get a life. This is pathetic. Would an Asian woman be OK to go as a Geisha on Halloween? If not why not? And if so are we now saying that only people of the exact origin or race can have fun dressed as a CHARACTER on Halloween? Stop being so sensitive. If America is to get passed all of this nonsense then it needs to get some perspective and start smiling again.

    Watch any movie or TV show and you will see a racial stereotype. Are all stereotypes negative NO! Why is it that this campaign only sees that.

    This country is dividing itself. Nobody wants to be American. Everyone is so narcissistic and self important it makes me sick to my stomach. Bring back people with humility and a sense of humor before we all end up selfish deluded idiots thinking the world owes them something.

    Based on this all costumes which feature Cowboys, Irish Leprechauns, Michael Jackson, Lady GaGa, Bin Laden, OJ Simpson, Madonna, Jersey Shore cast members will all now be banned because they offend the Irish, African Americans, Italians and Muslims. Thats pretty much Halloween cancelled.

    This country is becoming a laughing stock for the wrong reasons.

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      problem: equating people of color with Cowboys, Irish Leprechauns, Michael Jackson, Lady GaGa, Bin Laden, OJ Simpson, Madonna, Jersey Shore cast members.

      last i checked, leprechauns aren’t real, and the rest of those aren’t stereotypes of race.

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        Jersey Shore is a stereotype of Italian-Americans. A group that was a minority and apart from the “white” population for a long time when they came here. We just happened to learn to laugh at ourselves, we worked hard and we assimilated into white culture because, as my grand-father used to say “We are ALL Americans, dammit!”

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          Speaking as another Italian-American: no, it’s not that we have “learned to laugh at ourselves,” it’s that we’re not systematically-discriminated against in the United States anymore, and these stereotypes aren’t nearly as pervasive as they once were. Say all you want about Jersey Shore, I’ve yet to meet anyone who thinks that being Italian means you must act like the characters on the show, or means you’re in the Mafia or any other Italian stereotype. Same with other ethnic groups. The fact that our ancestors were once oppressed doesn’t undo this, and I bet they weren’t laughing back then.

          Equating the occasional Jersey Shore joke with the racially-motivated street harassment the OP describes is not only clueless, it’s insulting. Check your privilege.

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            really because every time I tell someone I’m sicilian, they ask me if I’m in the mafia. (nearly) every time I tell a northern italian i’m sicilian, they tell me I’m not white. judging by my family’s afro hair and dark skin, it’s likely that i’m not, at least entirely

            and lots of italian-americans are offended by the jersey shore, but they’re usually my parents/grandparent’s generation and you know why?

            because guidos are the result of lower-middle class/poor individuals turning material possessions into displays of culture/wealth OR misguided americanized interpretations of italian culture (gold chains –> crosses)
            instead of assimilating they took the worst parts of american culture and incorporated them

            but I still love them, mostly because I’m related to them

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            Yeah, I haven’t personally experienced people making fun of my Italian background but I realize others might have, sorry. That’s why I tried to use “I” messages. I’m not from the part of the country associated with the “guido” stereotype, and I’m also not 100% Italian (I’m actually more Polish than Italian, though people tell me I “look more Italian”). Also, personally, I find the show Jersey Shore offensive.

            Still, my point stands that Italian-Americans are no longer the victims of *systematic* discrimination in the U.S. People aren’t denied jobs or educational opportunities for having Italian last names or being Catholic, the way they used to be. So I still don’t think any lingering anti-Italian prejudice in the U.S. compares to what non-white people face (of course, this doesn’t count for when an Italian person is perceived as a race other than white).

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            I have to agree with Sister of a Guido. I am not Italian, however, I’m Polish. Almost every time I meet someone and am introduced using my last name (it’s very Polish), I am met with, “Oh! You’re a pollock! Did you know why the pollock was fired from the M&M factory – because they kept throwing away all the W’s!” followed by raucous laughter and more “Polish people are stupid” jokes. This stereotype clearly still exists. And while there may not be many Polish Halloween costumes to wear (probably because if you Google Halloween and Polish you just end with a lot of nail polish results)I still think I should be allowed to be offended if there was. Why does it seem like it’s not possible for culture appropriation to have to “white people.” If you say it’s because we’re not a group that’s heavily discriminated against, so be it. BUT, I think that that is saying to us that we’re not allowed to be proud of our culture. It’s saying if you dress up as a Native American or a Geisha or a terrorist then that’s offensive because that’s not what the real culture is like but if you dress up as a guido or a drunk Irish person or a German slut in lederhosen that’s ok because those stereotypes are white and white people aren’t allowed to have any pride in their culture or care about their heritage. And I, personally, find that being told that is even more offensive then someone wearing an offensive costume. To tell an entire group of people that they can’t have a heritage to be proud of, to make them feel that they can’t stand up to the people who call them racial slurs is just as belittling, demeaning, and discriminatory as any costume stereotyping people of color.

            If you’re going to say I’m a culture, not a costume – it should extend to ALL cultures because ALL cultures deserve respect.

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            Do you know what the taxonomical group “Caucasian” is? It includes Middle Eastern, Indian and North African people, as well as Europeans, and southern Italians are classified as a part of the same subgroup as these definitely-not-racially-privileged people.

            Not to mention that racial taxonomy is an inherently busted and racist social construct, and one that modern racist structures are not directly based on.

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            my bad, i totally didn’t know that. i just meant that Italian-Americans are considered white by current patriarchal standards and that means a fair amount of racial privilege. i’ll keep the info w/r/t racial taxonomy in mind, thanks.

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      Maybe being a Geisha is okay – nowadays. They should’ve always been OK because Geisha are not prostitutes so long as they don’t try to do stereotypically Asian things like making that face. It’s like saying Aerosmith are prostitutes. No, they’re just performers. Common misconception by the greater part of the unenlightened society.

      But how can you think it’s right for someone especially at this time to dress in the Arab costume in the campaign poster? I’m not Arab, I’m not friends with any, and I still think it’s wrong. People already hate Arabs just because there are/were some terrible people of that ethnicity. And now what they’re hated for and by extension they are being made fun of.

      It’s easy for whites not to get offended by stereotypically fat American costumes because you’re the majority. And often you aren’t that fat American and people know that just by looking a you. But the Arab costume makes fun of Arabs that aren’t obviously untrue. People of other ethnicities are already down on the count as minorities and now they have to deal with this insensitivity. And it’s not right for an Arab to dress like a crazy Arab either. It isn’t right for anyone to, just as it isn’t right for an Asian girl to dress as a Geisha and be a slut. They’d be promoting a false belief and they’d be doing it just to be a slut.

      And every time this happens, people say “oh, you just have no sense of humor.” It might come as a surprise to you, but the people who are the butt of jokes tend not to find the joke funny. People don’t truly laugh when they’re being insulted. I know, it’s so logical it blows you away.

      So yes, these people DO have a right to be insulted.

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            lol yes, that’s why it’s wrong to call people sluts. Because using slut as a slur reinforces misogynistic ideas about women’s sexuality (i.e. having one and expressing it with multiple people is bad).

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            It’s not misogynistic by definition for one to think that having multiple partners is wrong. People just have different beliefs. Now, you can say that expressing negative beliefs about others to them is wrong and that people should be more tolerant. But people thinking, according to their beliefs, that the behavior of someone else is slutty is not wrong. Some people think being a slut is fine. Some people don’t.

            What’s not fair is to label all who disagree with slutty behavior as perpetuating misogyny.

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            You can disagree with people who have many sexual partners and overtly express their sexuality although, for the record, judging people by how many people they’ve slept with does make you an ass. But you shouldn’t use the word slut to express this, because slut is a gendered, misogynistic word that is used to control women and their sexuality. When you use the word slut, you buy into the idea that men can have more sex than women, that it’s bad for women to be overt about their sexuality, etc.

            Just because you don’t think you’re being a misogynistic jerk, doesn’t mean you’re not actually being a misogynistic jerk! hth :)

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            If I think it’s morally wrong, it doesn’t make me an ass. Also, I don’t think that having multiple partners in every case is wrong. Slutty is more specific than that. Also, when I say slut, I wouldn’t just say it in reference to women displaying that behavior. I would use it in reference to men who do it too. Wrong to me is wrong. And, in my case, it’s not controlling their sexuality. It’s expressing disapproval of how they chose to manifest their sexuality.

            I guess I could come up with a new word never used before to describe both men and women displaying a behavior I disagree with, but, um, I’m not quite that original.

            Also, just because you think I’m being a misogynistic jerk doesn’t make me one either. It’s relative. Welcome to judging people.

            What I think is wrong you think is right, and what I think is right you think is wrong. It happens. Disagreeing with you makes me neither an ass or a jerk.

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            “If I think it’s morally wrong, it doesn’t make me an ass.”

            You haven’t actually said what you think is morally wrong so I don’t know whether or not that’s true. But using the word slut is what makes you an ass.

            “Also, I don’t think that having multiple partners in every case is wrong. Slutty is more specific than that.”

            Oh well, as long as YOU know what slutty means – I notice you haven’t cared to actually define it, presumably to avoid having to defend the ways in which *you* are judgmental – then obviously EVERYONE knows what you mean when you use it! Here is the wikipedia definition, jsyk:

            “Slut or slattern is a pejorative term applied to an individual who is considered to have loose sexual morals or who is sexually promiscuous. The term is generally applied to women and is an insult or offensive term of disparagement, meaning “dirty or slovenly.”

            “Also, when I say slut, I wouldn’t just say it in reference to women displaying that behavior. I would use it in reference to men who do it too.”

            You could also redefine the n word to mean “person of any race whose behaviour I don’t agree with”, but it wouldn’t make your definition the standard and it wouldn’t mean that it was OK for you to use it. Slurs are slurs. Slut is a word used to shame women.

            “And, in my case, it’s not controlling their sexuality. It’s expressing disapproval of how they chose to manifest their sexuality.”

            Dude, how do you think we control people in modern society? Yeah, some people go out and actually kill people or physically coerce them. But most of the work done to control people’s sexuality is done through disapproval, through namecalling, through cruelty. We don’t actually burn women at the stake anymore, that doesn’t mean we don’t seek to control their behaviour. I can’t believe I have to actually explain this on a queer website.

            “I guess I could come up with a new word never used before to describe both men and women displaying a behavior I disagree with, but, um, I’m not quite that original.”

            How about, instead of using a slur, you *describe the behaviour you dislike*? Oh, is that too hard? Tough cookies. Do you describe people or things as “retarded”? Do you like it when people call you “dyke” or your gay male friends “faggot”? I bet you don’t. So the same is true of slut. Grow up and stop using slurs.

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            I wouldn’t be responding if I was trying to avoid defending my opinion. Yes, it’s judgmental. But look at your own posts. So far, you’ve called me an ass, ignorant, told me to grow up, and a misogynistic jerk. Because that’s mature and leads to great discussion?

            Also, your argument, particularly this last post, is resembling a personal attack on my beliefs rather than an informed discussion more and more. Especially when you assume that I don’t include something to be that I can’t defend it (because obviously it must be the worst possible reason). If you want to know why I don’t include a definition, ask why I didn’t or ask for one.

            Rather than continue to respond and try to get my point across, I’ll just leave it at that. People disagree with you. Learn to handle it and discuss in a way that fosters understanding and change, rather than as if you’re trying to win a verbal beat down.

            I disagree with you. But we both could’ve benefitted from discussion. Instead, you decided to be offensive in every post when none of mine directly

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            How can I be attacking your beliefs when at no point have you articulated what they are? Tell me what you think slutty behaviour is and we can talk about that but if you’re not willing to do that we obviously can’t have that discussion. But seriously, I’m not interested in what you believe, I’m interested in how you behave.

            I’m sorry my tone has been curt. I have a huge problem with people who use misogynistic slurs like “slut”. Using the word slut – to describe *any* kind of behaviour – is not a belief, it is an action. An oppressive one. It perpetuates a culture of hatred towards women’s sexuality and seeks to control the behaviour of other women through verbal abuse – just like calling butch women “dyke” seeks to control their behaviour.

            If you really have a problem with someone’s behaviour, you can totally express that. But you should not do it using slurs. (And I seriously cannot believe someone who uses the word slut to describe other women is complaining because I got shirty with you in an argument on the internet. I *do* think it’s childish to insist on the idea that there’s no easy alternative for using slurs. I *do* think it’s wrong. I *do* think it is ignorant to not understand the ways in which using slurs like slut plays into the history of the oppression of women’s sexuality. And using the word slut is misogynistic.)

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            Belief was such a bad word. That’s what I get for typing at IHOP. Pancakes always win the war for my attention.

            Anyways, I had this whole thing I was going to say clarifying my beliefs. But I think I can summarize and move on. I don’t call people sluts. I rarely, if ever, call anyone a slur or name. I just don’t care for it. I was, for some reason, defending my opinion regarding the morality of the behavior typically described as “slutty,” for which you kindly provided a definition.

            However, I do like one point that you made after I was done feeling insulted by your, as you put it, curt tone. It is better to simply describe the behavior you disagree with than use a slur. Any word can have different connotations for different people, and generally just being descriptive is better than confining yourself to a word.

            So, I guess I disagree in terms of thinking that the word slut is not inherently misogynistic in each and every way it is used by every person. However, I agree that slurs are not the optimal way of expressing beliefs.

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            Hi, I’m not sure if you were replying to me or not, but if you were then that really wasn’t what I was doing. Asking people not to engage in one form of oppressive behaviour while trying to fight another is not an attempt to derail the discussion.

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      What you say about stereotypes is interesting. I suppose you mean that stereotypes are a basic building block of language. I agree that it’s true that stereotypes are a massive time saver, allowing you to encapsulate a character in a series of words. Language would not exist without stereotypes. But saying that is not admitting that stereotypes are not ultimately harmful. If nothing else they perpetuate labels, which box people in to a set of ideas which they may not share or think describes them at all. But at their worst, stereotypes can reflect the worst attitudes of society in the context of every -ism you can think of.

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      White people have the most power, so they make the rules. The decision is made by white people that it’s okay to dress up as people of color for Halloween. White people create this culture.

      Criticizing this campaign is criticizing the right of people of color to have a voice in this culture and this holiday and it’s criticizing the right of people of color to talk about how they’re being represented.

      You don’t have to agree with it, you can declare yourself Not Racist and you can rock your Geisha Garb all night long and Trick or Treat the hell out of Halloween, that’s up to you. White people are in power, as aforementioned, so you’re essentially free to do what you want and probably won’t suffer much recourse for it. That’s why power is an integral aspect of this conversation. This campaign isn’t stopping you from that, it’s just letting you know how the other people involved in your culture feel about it and how it makes them feel. I personally think it’s important to respect that, but that’s just me.

      Power and privilege are integral aspects of racism.

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        This is really good, Riese. It reminds white people that they are responsible for their choices, even if those choices don’t come with visible negative consequences for offending white people. (Like, the people in costume in the posters didn’t get told off last Halloween. They probably didn’t even realize they were making other people feel nauseous! Until this poster campaign!)

        I’m really proud because I was following Sarah, who’s the head of STARS, on tumblr BEFORE SHE WAS FAMOUS.

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          Mmm. Yes, us white people need to be reminded that we are responsible for our choices.

          We are so slow, dim-witted, racist and insensitive and just general all-round idiots, that we need to be reminded of things like this all the time.

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            um, don’t EVEN play yourself trying portray yourself as the injured party here. don’t try to make this about you, or make it seem as though you are being ATTACKED as a white person. you are simply being apprised of a racist and offensive custom that happens EVERY halloween. the real injured parties are the poc who’ve had aspects of their culture or SKIN COLOR bastardized for the halloween entertainment of white people. and yea, if you KNOW that this behavior is offensive and you still have the nerve to defend it you probably ARE slow, dim-witted, insensitive, and racist. you called it, i didn’t.

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        Hello from Birmingham UK again!

        You say ‘The decision is made by white people that it’s okay to dress up as people of color for Halloween. White people create this culture.’

        I wonder, did you intend to lump all white people in together under the banner of a single behaviour which only some exhibit?

        I can only assume you did not intent to do that, knowing as I do your abhorrence for that kind of racial stereotyping, the stereotype here being that all white people in general partake in and approve of racially/culturally insensitive activities.

        I see the following man saying this in a University lecture room or auditorium, followed by applause, and I don’t assume that all black people hold this kind of hatred in their hearts…

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vYML_F1Nb0

        ….because I choose not ascribe characteristics to people based on their race.

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        riese-

        thank you for explaining how white privilege works to some of these people. as a poc, it really gets tiring, trying to constantly explain to entitled white people that appropriating am aspect of a racial minority’s culture is out of line or that darkening your skin color harkens back to racist minstrels, which helped disseminate the harmful stereotypes about blacks that made it easier do things like burn black people alive. i’m so irritated by so many of the obtuse responses here, there are no words. the tone deaf and asinine responses to racism i often receive from the lesbian community seriously make me feel alienated, but people WHO GET IT like yourself are a beacon hope that there is a chance for change. people need to shut up, open their eyes, LISTEN TO WHEN PEOPLE SAY THEY ARE OFFENDED, and stop feeling so entitled to offend people without expecting some kind of retribution or negative response. at least the obtuse readers who keep trying to find ways to defend this can’t continue to say they aren’t aware that dressing up like a “mexican”, or “native american”, or painting themselves in blackface is offensive. now they’re aware, and they all they can do is either keep coming up with the stupidest excuses alive for continuing this behavior or stopping it all together.

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    I’m particularly appalled at the white chick who thought it was totally appropriate to not just do blackface but to cover her whole entire body. And just who was she supposed to be anyway? I wonder what she said when people asked her that question. At least the dude she’s posing with is dressed like a fictional person/creature that doesn’t exist. She’s just being offensive.

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      Call me insensitive, but I fail to see how the Lil Wayne costume is racist. First of all, I recognized her costume immediately, because I listen to his music.

      this. is. not. blackface.
      She is dressing up like one specific celebrity, not essentializing a race. His skin tone is darker than hers. If she had done the whole thing (clothes, foil on the teeth) but left out his skin tone, she wouldn’t have looked as much like him.
      If she had done shoepolish and white eyes, that would refer to a hurtful racial stereotype–but that’s not the point of her costume.

      Furthermore, if you search more photos of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleader as Lil Wayne, there are photos of her posing with a couple of black girls. They couldn’t have been too offended, right?

      I would love it if someone could explain how painting your skin (in this context) is any different than wearing a wig.

      Because she’s not making a stereotype about “black people”.

      Was it racist when Dwayne Wade painted himself white to look like Justin Timberlake?

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    I don’t understand this trend, nor the appropriation of Native American motifs on hipster rich kid clothes, either.

    And why did that person say that Greeks would find ofense over something to do with Cleopatra? Maybe a basic lack of understanding of historical events could explain some of the idiotic responses.

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      Cleopatra’s family actually was of Greek descent. But I totally agree, those comments were ridiculous. I hate the “I’m [nationality] and it doesn’t bother me, so it’s totally okay” argument. One person can’t speak for an entire race/ethnicity/nationality.

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    i’m not sure why people insist on being something random and racist when there are a million potential costumes out there. and i’m not even creative. i’ve always meant to be rufio for halloween one year but i’m so damn lazy it never happens.

    but, i digress. great article, and glad to hear about this campaign.

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    @ Jerry Stein – would it bother you if a non-queer person dressed up as a ridiculous queer stereotype?

    Also, it sounds like the author might have slammed a costume you were going to wear and you sound a bit defensive…

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    There are actually a lot of white geishas now, as well as black sumo wrestlers, Chinese cowboys, white terrorists, etc. One of the most famous Opera singers in the world is a 15 year old African American.

    At some point in the past you may have had a point, but not anymore.

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      I’m normally against feeding trolls… but this is just ridiculous. You’re just stringing words together, not making an actual point or using facts. The modern diversity in those occupations isn’t the point. It’s the historical privilege of white people that makes the costumes racist.

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      “One of the most famous Opera singers in the world is a 15 year old African American.”

      That kid is talented but he’s hardly “one of the most famous Opera singers in the world” – I’m an opera buff and I hadn’t heard of him until you mentioned him.

      I think the rest of your comment is fish in a barrel, so I’m just going to stop there.

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        Also, as someone in the classical music field, there is actually a lot of racial disparity in it in terms of a lack of Black musicians going into classical music. One 15-year-old YouTube star does not undo all of that.

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            I don’t know, it is hard to say, because even though I’m a classical composer and musician I’m not black, so I can’t really tell what day-to-day discouragement black classical musicians may or may not be receiving.

            In my experience, though, as a woman composer – and women are still the minority among classical composers – I think that the line between “interest” and “opportunities” is blurred because so much of that early interest comes from being encouraged in it by music teachers. With composers, a lot of people start because they’re good at band/orchestra/choir/whatever and teachers push them to try writing music as a way to further explore their talents. But I’ve noticed that they tend to do this with boys more; I don’t know if it’s intentional or if it’s just because when they think “composer” they don’t think of women. By contrast, I figured out that I wanted to write music and was good at it long before anybody else did, and I do feel like my high school music teachers often didn’t take me as seriously as male aspiring-composers. However, now that I’m at a music conservatory, I don’t see much of a difference in how I’m treated compared to my male peers.

            So in my experience, the issue is at the formative stages, when that interest is being nurtured and developed, that is to blame for the skewed ratio of male to female composers. It may be different with the race divide, though, and I’m hardly speaking for all female composers here – some WOULD say there is institutional bias against women in composition. I’m just an undergrad so maybe I haven’t experience it yet, and I’ve just been lucky enough to be at a school where this isn’t a problem. And of course, composers and performers are in different worlds, and I’m not sure if the same format can be applied to them.

            And sorry I didn’t see this until now!

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    The white girl DRESSED UP as black, was being Lil Wayne, very obvious especially with all the media reports about him these past few years. And I completely agree with Jerry, the very few insensitive people are making all COSTUMES seem cruel. What about the people in the south who see people dressed up as “red necks” or ex-convicts see people dressed up as “prison bitchs” or even costumes depicting elderly women, normally worn by men. Surely the police costumes making fun of the stereotype of them loving donuts and being overweight is gonna be flagged. It has nothing to do with race, it’s a costume, simply a costume. People want to pretend for one night a year, can’t they do that, the economy and the deployed soldiers are bad enough. Hell I dressed up as a gypsy one year because I thought that they were beautiful women, is that racist? No. Children can pretend, why can’t adults? Relax people. Life is too short for this.

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      Dressing up as a police officer for Halloween is not the same as dressing up as a racial stereotype. Last I checked police officers don’t have a history of being oppressed as people over their love of fucking donuts. Come on now.

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      “Hell I dressed up as a gypsy one year because I thought that they were beautiful women, is that racist?”

      Well, I know for sure that it’s fetishizing. Anyway, not to say that your examples aren’t problematic (except the police one, what the hell?) but why do you expect a group that is specifically targeting racism to also tackle sizeism and classism? Or were you just trying to hit a few squares on derailment bingo before anyone else did?

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      Sorry but dressing up as a gypsy is racist. Doing it because you think they are beautiful women isn’t any better because you are objectify the women of a racial group.

      I dressed up as a gypsy when I was five because my Mum and I didn’t know any better. I also dressed up as Esmerelda for a disney fancy dress party when I was eighteen because, again, I honestly didn’t realise it was offensive. I do now and I won’t do it again and I’m sorry I did it. Its Ok to make mistakes if you own them and fix the problem.

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      I think if you read up as her and try to be historically and culturally accurate, people won’t see your costume as offensive. There’s a big difference between paying homage to a historical figure and taping some feathers to a headband and saying “How.”

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    I think it time people stop being so PC. I mean nobody every gets mad at people dressing up a Pastor or a catholic priest. People are getting way to way to sensitive. And c_loan a leprechauns would be Racist to Irish. I am of Irish and Cherokee descent. It’s a Costume get over yes are they people out there who my do this a in your face. I don’t get upset when St. Pattys day come and there are people around who think they are Irish and not. Please lets stop this madness. If you were born here you are an American. Your family my have come form differnet place but you are an American first…………

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        I have a bit of a problem with this.

        I feel like this campaign is about respect. People are feeling disrespected. Who they are and where they come from are things that they hold dear to their hearts and these costumes are irreverent and insensitive to that.

        It seems like you are pretty sympathetic to this campaign which is great but reading a statement like that makes me do a bit of a double take.

        Being Catholic is also an identity that a group of people (many of whom are good, wonderful, decent people) hold near and dear. To them, dressing up as a figure they hold in high regard, like the Pope, may come off just as irreverent and insensitive as the costumes shown in the posters above.

        If this campaign IS essentially about respect, shouldn’t we afford them the same respect and sensitivity that we are asking for from other people?

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          No, because it’s not just about respect, it’s mainly about privilege. A White person who dresses up as a Native American for Halloween has power that the people they are mocking do not. They are simply furthering the oppression of those minorities.

          Whereas a gay American mocking the Pope is different because the Pope is the one with privilege and power – which they are using to further homophobia – and the gay person is the victim.

          And FTR, criticizing the Pope =/= hating Catholics. There are plenty of Catholics who reject the Pope’s anti-gay, anti-women opinions (which doesn’t kick them out of the religion – it’s disagreeing with the theological stuff that makes a difference). I know quite a few Catholics who are not fans of the Pope.

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            You’re right, it’s a lot to do with privilege. I know respect is a general term but I feel the hope/goal behind promoting an awareness of privilege is so people can recognize and be sensitive to the significance of other people, who they are, where they come from, etc., which to me, is ‘respect’.

            I also agree that there’s a difference between mocking a minority group and mocking a group with privilege and power but power and privilege doesn’t take away the offensiveness of an action.

            I appreciate that you made the distinction between criticism of the Church and hating Catholics but it wasn’t what I was intending to address.

            I was trying to point out why I disagreed with Paper0Flowers’ condition about only stopping Pope mockery when Catholicism becomes a marginalized group.

            To say that is to completely disregard a group of people and the experiences that they hold sacred. Which is one of the things we’re fighting against when we fight privilege and racism, classism, ageism, etc.

            I feel strongly about the one-sidedness of her statement because it mirrors the same thing we are struggling against, just from the other side. If we want to truly work on eradicating it everywhere and to make the world a place where these things don’t exist, we have to recognize that it’s not ever okay to brush anyone’s values and experiences off and it’s not ever okay to hurt and offend, privilege or not.

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          It’s not about respect at all, and respect is not a shorthand for privilege. It’s that dressing up in racially stereotyped costumes perpetuates racism. It continues the oppression of oppressed groups. The Pope is not an oppressed group and you can’t perpetuate his oppression by dressing up as him. It’s not the same.

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            Respect for others is definitely not shorthand for privilege. If anything, it’s perhaps a too general and too abstract idea, but nonetheless an idea that includes being aware of one’s own privilege.

            I was trying really hard to articulate my thoughts clearly and concisely on this one particular thread, however I am beginning to realize why it seems like I haven’t.

            And since you gave me little to go on, besides telling me what it’s not, I did minimal research and found a good post on privilege that I feel helps bridge the gap between what I’m trying to say and what you’re trying to say, at least a little bit.

            I’m linking to it here, just in case anyone else is kind of like me and was interested.

            http://sindeloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/37/

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            I’m sorry, you used the word privilege above so I thought that you knew what it meant.

            I have to reiterate that “respect”, as it is commonly used, does not hold any sense of being aware of your own privilege. To be aware of your own privilege is to understand how society has given you benefits and taken them away from others in a constant process of socialisation and ickiness. (We like the mature vocabulary around here.) Being aware of your privilege is to understand that *you do not have all the knowledge about other people’s life experiences,* and that you do not know what hurts other people. Being aware of your privilege is being aware of the way society makes your life a little bit easier than others’. It’s to be a straight person who’s aware of the fact that queer children have fewer role models in school, say, and works to amend that.

            Treating other people with respect is a valuable thing. But it’s not complete. You can be a well-meaning straight person who likes queer people and still not be aware of your heterosexual privilege. For example, you might think that same-sex marriage is totally cool, have lots of gay friends, etc, but not be aware of the ways in which heterosexual marriage and relationships are depicted everywhere and same-sex ditto aren’t. etc etc.

            I think we often use words like “respect” and “pain” and so on in conversations like these because it’s an easy shorthand for “hurting people”. It’s easy for people to understand that dressing in blackface is disrespectful towards African-Americans and hurts them, and if they can’t understand that then most people will still try to avoid hurting others and giving offense. And they’re valuable things to talk about. But it’s also not a complete conversation, because if you went in blackface to a party attended only by white people and nobody else saw you, you still would have been wrong to wear that costume.

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          But again, context is all. In Northern Ireland, perhaps, mocking the Pope would be marginalizing Catholics, but most people I know in the U.S. who don’t like Pope are more peeved at the way he often uses his power to marginalize gays and women.

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            I agree, re: Context is important.
            Not really commenting on the whole dressing as the pope thing, dress as whoever you want as far as I’m concerned.

            I was mostly making the point that Catholics in Northern Ireland were a “disenfranchised minority”.
            They were denied civil rights and persecuted for their religion.
            White people can be marginalised too.

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        last time I checked, catholicism was a minority, immigrant religion in the United States – so much so that JFK nearly wasn’t elected president and that some protestants don’t consider it “real” christianity
        catholicism has a place in the world
        and it helps a lot of people (just not about reproductive rights, but neither does islam, protestantism, mormonism, or some strains of judaism)

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          The key word in your first sentence is “was.” Yes, when JFK was running for president and terms like WASP were coined, American Catholics were an oppressed minority. That is not the case anymore. In fact, Catholics are the largest single religious denomination in the United States: http://religions.pewforum.org/reports and the total number of Catholics exceeds that of mainline Protestants.

          It is similar to what I was saying above about Italian-Americans. The fact that there is a history of anti-Italian discrimination in the US does not mean it’s still pervasive enough that Italian-Americans who aren’t old enough to remember that era can say we have any idea what it’s like to be a non-White minority today. Catholics have definitely reached the religious mainstream in the US, and are major forces in movements against reproductive rights and gay rights, on par with conservative Protestants – and much more so than religious minorities like Muslims and Orthodox Jews.

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    I’ll wear ray bans,black skinny jeans,probably a ‘Grizzly Bear’ shirt,a scarf,an awesome vintage watch and chucks….and I’ll ride a fixie to the party.

    thats not discriminating in any way nor any kind of ‘hipster-bashing’
    it’s just me being waaaay to coool to actually dress up.

    also I’m broke.I couldn’t even afford a racist costume.Bugger!

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    Well… its horrible that the article author has a history of experiencing objectification.

    That said, this article is hit and miss for me.

    First of all, to say that an event that lasts roughly 1/365th of a year is “perpetuating an uncomfortable system of oppression” gives Halloween way too much cultural significance and power.

    Secondly, most people (at least, that I know of…) don’t research the cultural significance of their costumes. The idea that someone is dressing up as a geisha to support the oppression of Asian women is a flawed premise. And if you see a non-Asian woman dressed up as geisha, does that make it more racist than if an Asian woman is dressed up as a geisha? If an Asian women is dressed up as a geisha, does that mean she’s supporting oppression of herself?

    Have you tried to treat anyone on Halloween as an object based on how they’re dressed?

    As for using black-face (well, black-body) to try to imitate a rapper… I’m not entirely sure that’s as evil as you make it out to be either.

    Is it racist if she was trying to do it to imitate the rapper to the highest level?

    Does the “racism” depend on how well she replicates the tattoos?

    When does it stop? When does it stop being art, or imitation of an idol, and become racist? And do double standards of when its racist or not really help integrate society as progress towards eliminating racism and discrimination?

    These are questions that I don’t really (currently) have answers for… and I’m not sure that there are even answers that would work for all people.

    I will say that I don’t believe Halloween costumes are overtly racist. Maybe subconsciously racist, but even that is uncertain. Most people don’t consider who they will offend by wearing a costume, and to be honest I don’t necessarily think they should, as that’s a slippery slope that will never end.

    If you want to fix oppression, racism, and discrimination… I don’t think ANYTHING you can do in regards to Halloween will help at all.

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      Re: The Lil Wayne costume; blacking up is part of a racist tradition. Maybe some people who do it aren’t aware of that, but a large part of the issue with it is that it dates back to Minstrel Shows and their aggressive stereotyping.

      I suppose it’s possible to argue that blacking up as a particular and specific person or character isn’t buying into that racist tradition. But I would disagree. If we lived in a vacuum wherein the past however many years of racial oppression hadn’t happened, maybe it would be acceptable. But we don’t. And until we do, it’s not too much of a hardship to avoid pretending to be black.

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        Smoops – AGREED. My above comments re: the fact that her Lil Wayne is unrecognizable altogether were not meant to be my reasoning as to why this is offensive. The black-face/blacking up itself is what is offensive for the reasons Smoops gave.

        The costumes in this campaign are racist. But I do not presume the costume-wearers to be evil! And I would ask that we all consider our definitions of racism carefully…the media, etc. have created this idea that to be called a racist or to be accused of perpetuating racism is “evil” and is reserved for the likes of only the lowest of the low. Let us be free to reevaluate this. Let us be free to recognize that good people can be racist, act in a racist manner, and contribute to the institution of racism. And let us be free to allow such people to be reflective about race and racism and their role in it. And Halloween’s role in it. etc. etc.

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        To The Almighty – yay for someone who I agree with. Racism sucks and I hate to not love an article here. But your points are exactly what came to mind.

        Also, people need to get over the “blacking up” thing. If people don’t even know it’s historically, as in really you’d have to know some history to get it, offensive, don’t get offended. Very few people that do that are even trying to portray black people as a whole, just a specific person. They’re not “pretending to be black.” That’s way too general, and reacting that way, combined with getting angry over something that was meant to be offensive before your lifetime, is what makes people perceive oversensitivity.

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          What you’re saying is that the oppression of other cultures is so embedded into our culture that it’s really easy not to know you’re doing it, and therefore *people shouldn’t stop doing it when it’s pointed out to them.* Ugh. It’s embedded into our culture that it’s OK to have sex with people too drunk to consent, but that doesn’t mean that it’s OK to do so. Ignorance isn’t an excuse but if it was, hey! You’re not ignorant anymore. Don’t do it. And speak up around others.

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            No. That’s not what I’m saying. At all.

            I’m saying that blacking up was only used in a derogatory manner in a very specific time period of oppression in the U.S. People that do that today typically have no idea that ever even occurred. Just like the people that get offended never experienced that. So people are perceiving a continuation of oppression where there’s not one based on what people in the past had happen to them (within the same race).

            I’m not ignorant either. And I don’t appreciate you saying I was about this. My differing opinion isn’t a reason to start slinging that at me.

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            That is not an excuse. That fact remains that blackface has a very nasty past. If someone wears blackface today and a black person says to them “Hey, it’s kind of offensive for you to do that and here’s why” I think the proper thing to do is respect that. “Well, that happened a long time and I had nothing to do with that” is not an excuse to keep continuing doing it when you know it is a sensitive subject for that culture. Just stop.

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            I agree with the fact that if it is offensive to someone you should respect them. That’s fine. That’s the same with anything. If you know someone who doesn’t like cursing, you don’t usually throw the F bomb in every other word around them.

            What I’m saying is that it should not just be “fundamentally” racist when it can have other intentions. As long as it’s a sensitive subject, then fine. But I think that at some point people should become less polarized about the subject. Painting yourself shouldn’t inherently be derogatory. You could be wanting to portray a respected black person, such as a friend of mine who used blackface for a play, yet got blasted, because obviously if you use black body paint you are racist. No, you’re not. It’s just that there are some situations where it’s not and some where it is, and rather than taking the time to differentiate, people just say “racist.”

            Also, telling people to “just stop,” doesn’t usually promote healthy discussion.

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            Why do you think everyone should have a say in what one culture—that isn’t yours—is allowed to deem offensive to them? If it’s a sensitive subject to them than it’s a sensitive subject and you should respect that and keep it moving. You may not have thought you were being offensive at the time but when a black person tells you that it is still inappropriate to do that the decent thing to do is not huff and puff about how the black person is being unfair because YOU believe that YOU have the last say in what she should be offended by.

            Look, I’m not going to put on a Nazi outfit and then throw a fit if a Jewish person–or anyone for that matter—calls me out on the fact that it is in really poor taste to do so. I don’t care how long ago it was. I, as a non-Jew, don’t get to tell a Jewish person when to get over the Holocaust. That would be really shitty of me. The same goes for blackface or the use of the word Nigger or the use of the word fag or anything that a particular group that is not mine finds offensive to them.

            No, you don’t have to stop doing it just because you believe you are not being racist/homophobic/etc by doing so but IMO you still look like a jerk continuing to engage in an activity that you have now been told is hurtful to them.

            As for plays, Do you know why Broadyway no longer does blackface? Because it is still offensive to black people. You can portray a historical figure without having to paint yourself the color of that person. Huge plays do it all the time. Even grade school to high school plays do it all the time. All you need is the clothing. I’ve seen black kids play Shakespeare characters and US presidents. I’ve seen white kids recite the works of MLK. All without having to resort to coloring themselves up. Why? Because it is still in poor taste. Probably will be for a very long time.

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            I can’t possibly presume to speak for an entire culture, but neither can anyone, including the people of that culture. A lot of things are sensitive subjects, but that doesn’t mean that simply accepting it and moving on is the best thing. I am simply saying that rather than saying “Blackface is always okay” or “Blackface is always wrong” individuals take it upon themselves to decide situationally what is offensive and what is not.

            I already retracted my statement about telling them to get over it, saying it was poorly worded and not my point.

            You also are not the judge of what is hurtful to “them.” This is part of what I’m trying to say. There should not be a “them.” Black people as a whole represent a race. Culture varies depending on a lot of things, not just according to race. All black people do not agree on this. And what I’m saying is that because we are individuals, and we are all humans, activities that are sensitive should be handled person to person, by conscious individuals. Based on the fact that I have already stated that I would respond positively to individuals who said something was offensive in relation to nearly any issue and the fact that I already have stated that blackface can be used offensively, but is not always, I don’t think I’m being a jerk at all. You can think I am. But, well, opinions are opinions.

            Again, it is not offensive to all black people. And you can, but visually, it is less accurate. Not because race matters, but because people just want to portray what you would actually see when looking at the person portrayed. That is literally it. They see a black person, and, out of a desire to be visually accurate, would like portray the figure accurately. I am saying that whether or not it is in poor taste should be discussed and talked about.

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            You said:

            “If people don’t even know it’s historically, as in really you’d have to know some history to get it, offensive, don’t get offended. ”

            i.e.: “If people are ignorant of the fact that blackface is offensive, they should be allowed to do it without acknowledging the fact that their behaviour hurts others.” Also, you don’t have to know any goddamn history to get that putting shoepolish on your face in order to pretend to be black, or in order to pretend to be a specific individual, is racist. It’s saying: what really matters about (this person that I’m dressing up as) is that we’re different skin colours.

            “Just like the people that get offended never experienced that.”

            Minstrel shows were still around in the early 80s, so it’s actually perfectly possible that people living today have experienced them; but more to the point, minstrel shows have had a lasting effect on stereotypes about African Americans. It’s ridiculous to say that the historical performance of blackface doesn’t affect black people today: it has a legacy.

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            Nope. As in, “If those people clearly do not mean to be derogatory by using blackface and are not actually portraying the culture as a whole in a demeaning manor, do not get offended. However, if they are being extremely derogatory and doing anything remotely similar to what blackface was historically used for, get offended.” It’s not saying that is “what really matters.” It’s just acknowledging it in some cases, where it’s not trying to be used in a racist manner.

            An example of what I’m not okay with in terms of utilizing blackface: the girl above. She clearly means to demean black people and black culture. An example of what I am okay with and what I think should be okay: using blackface to more accurately portray an important person, either of historical or current significance, who happens to be black. If race doesn’t matter and someone absolutely loves someone in black history, etc., then using blackface to portray their likeness shouldn’t be taken in a demeaning manner.

            Also, I didn’t realize the were still around in the 80s. That’s my bad. However, just the simple act of painting your skin shouldn’t have a “legacy.” People should differentiate between derogatory and non-derogatory use before getting offended. I’ve seen a young black woman blast a friend of mine for respectfully portraying a significant black woman in a play and using blackface-based on something that happened decades ago and neither her nor her family experienced. That’s what is ridiculous. The black woman in question was my friend’s idol. In some cases, people should be able to accept the fact that it is not always demeaning or hateful. Being too extreme and just labeling something as racist in absolutely all cases of occurring ever just increases polarization.

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            Intent is not magic.

            Person A is walking along not really looking where they’re going and they step on person B’s foot. Person B goes, ouch! Person A goes, sorry! Person A didn’t *mean* to step on person B’s foot, but they still did it. That means they apologise. After that two things can happen.

            Person A1 starts looking where they’re going. They maybe still step on people’s feet occasionally, but they keep apologising and eventually they can walk without stepping on people at all. Nobody gets really mad at them because they’re not doing anything wrong.

            Person A2 keeps walking and keeps stepping on people’s feet because they just can’t be bothered looking where they’re going. Lots of people point out that they should look where they’re going but A2 just doesn’t care. A2 keeps telling everyone, look, I didn’t mean to step on your feet! Stop complaining! It didn’t really hurt! It was only a little bit! They don’t listen when person B points out that people step on other people’s feet all the time and actually, person B’s feet are really bruised, because the cumulative effect of being stepped on lots of times is painful.

            For the record, in this conversation? You are person A2.

            Intent is not magic. People can do bad things without realising, even when they have good intentions. This is OK if people apologise and learn from their mistakes, and learn when people – like this campaign – are reaching out to them. But it’s not OK to ignore other people when you step on their feet.

            Finally, if you friend respected this black person so much, what did they feel that painting their face brought to their characterisation that was so important?

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            Thanks for acting like I’m ignorant and saying I’m a jerk, again. I appreciate the creative metaphor.

            Intent is not magic. However, these two individuals are just that–individuals. Black people are not, collectively, individuals. There is not, somewhere, a large list of things universally offensive to each and every black person.

            So AGAIN. I am NOT repeatedly stepping on anyone’s feet. I have said that people should respect the wishes of others who come to them and are directly offended. I did not say ignoring people is okay.

            What I am saying is that because it is not universally offensive, as very few things are universal, I think that rather than being extremist, a case by case approach is more appropriate. I just want people to think. I want people to analyze each situation. I want them to determine appropriateness on their own. Rather than just saying well that’s blackface, so I’m offended. That doesn’t promote anything inherently healthy. Yes, it might prevent some people from blacking up and thus prevent some offenses. However, I think that talking to people and determining, one on one, what their preferences are and what is okay based on the situation and in full context, is better.

            To me, it is better for people to think for themselves and avoid extremes, because there are exceptions for nearly everything. Thus, ultimately, I am advocating a higher level of consciousness on the parts of everyone potentially involved.

            Also, my friend painted herself to visually look like the person. It has nothing to do with characterization. She simply wanted to look like her. Which she did. At face value, there is nothing wrong with that. Her being black didn’t matter to my friend, and my friend didn’t expect anyone to see it as inherently wrong to try and look like a person from another race. To her race doesn’t matter, it was purely visual. And again, I think that’s better. If people don’t intend for something to be wrong, then looking at it case by case works because a) it avoids an action being declared entirely, in every situation possible, considered abominable and b) a person getting offended at every said situation. It fosters more growth, understanding, and depolarization of lines between races to handle sensitive issues individually.

            I am not and have not said that intent is magic. Nor that people repeatedly ignoring sensibilities is okay.

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            I don’t know any way other than intent is magic to interpret the following statement:

            “If those people ***clearly do not mean to be derogatory*** by using blackface and are not actually portraying the culture as a whole in a demeaning manor, do not get offended”

            Emphasis mine.

            I appreciated your response upthread by the way, too lazy to reply there.

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            Thanks.

            Could you please elaborate on what you mean by intent is magic then?

            I’m trying to say that intent should come into play in deciding whether or not something is offensive, and I think it should be treated on an individual basis. A person considering blacking up can either be ignorant of its history or not, and can use it in a derogatory way or not. And the person who may or may not be offended can take into consideration the persons intent when deciding its offensiveness. I just would like to see it be judged by conscious individuals, not condemned as a whole.

            I think it can be used just as a pure visual aid in a respectful manner, such as in the case of my friend. Obviously race doesn’t add anything to characterization, it just helps visually to imagine how a person looks. Of course, it is not necessary to do that. I’m just saying that I hope eventually people can discern between when it is offensive and not, although it would take time and patience because it is sensitive.

            Like I said earlier, that girl that used blacking up in that picture is fail and totally offensive. But I think if people could have more healthy discussion about it, there may be circumstances in which it is not completely hateful.

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            Good intent and good faith can stop people being racists (sort of), but it can’t stop their actions from being racist. If I, with the best intentions in the world, dress up as L’il Wayne like that girl did, I have still done something wrong. If someone points that out to me and I accept that I have done something wrong and don’t do it again, the action itself was still wrong, but I am probably not a giant racist (except in the ways in which being raised in modern culture makes us racist). However, if someone points it out to me and I say “but I didn’t mean to be racist!” my original good intent stops mattering, because clearly I’m more interested in defending my bad action than I am in actually not being racist and learning from people who are trying to teach me about racism.

            I am not going to continue to discuss blackface with you because multiple people up and down this entire post and comment thread have explained why blackface is *always* offensive to the point where I just don’t get why you don’t get it. You have this whole thing where apparently your opinion of what is racist is more important than the opinion of people who have actually experienced racism. Let me say it very clearly: you are not qualified to decide what is and is not racist. You should listen to others when they are trying to educate you. Blackface is racist. It’s not just offensive. It’s not just a painful reminder. It. Is. Racist. Should black girls who go as Beyonce mess around with foundation until their skin is the same shade as hers? Unless you actively get plastic surgery for every costume, unless your every costume is 100% identical in fabric and fibre and so on, unless you have carefully matched your offensive fake skin tone to pictures, your costume is NOT going to be a perfect representation of how the original person looked. That is not the point of a costume. If you genuinely respect the person you’re representing, you would acknowledge that the shade of their skin is not such an important part of representing them that you need to duplicate it.

            And for the record when it comes to plays and performances just cast black people as black characters and you won’t have a problem.

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            You don’t have to continue to discuss it with me.

            I don’t understand why you don’t get my point. You don’t understand why I don’t get yours. Probably a good place to leave it.

            Also, in response to you apparently thinking I have the belief that I am the authority on racism: if you read what I said, all I have said is that people should handle the issue on an individual basis. I never once said that it could never be racist. I just don’t agree that it is always racist.

            Also, I don’t have a problem now. This isn’t my person cause that I’m championing. I’m just expressing my beliefs about an issue I came across. I’m not saying a costume should be a 100% perfect rendition. I’m saying that it is simply more accurate visually. That is not racist. That is not saying black people should be oppressed. It has nothing to do with black culture at large. In fact, it is not inherently mocking them or doing anything derogatory to them.

            Nobody on this website can say what people of minorities as a whole think about the issue. Not you, not even one individual of a minority. There is not one single culture of black people united on this. Which is why, for the last time: I advocate handling a sensitive issue on a case by case basis.

            All I’m saying. Individuals handling individual issues. Also, in response to your first paragraph: I have said multiple times that if someone finds offense with blackface or any aspect of the costume you should be respectful and comply.

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            Also, the main thing we seem to be disagreeing about is that you think blackface is racist in every single circumstance, whereas I just think it is racist in most of them. I think that if there’s even a percentage where that’s not true, it’s not fair to label it racist. I think that means individuals can use their minds to determine if it is or not.

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            Racism in America does not exist in a vacuum. Minstrel shows may be a thing of the past but the racism that fueled them is not. I am black now, and this is offensive now. If someone tells you that, you are no longer ignorant of how a costume or any action has affected someone, so if you continue to wear that costume, to refuse to change your way of thinking, you are consciously deciding to continue with your offensive actions. You have your free will to do that, but do not pretend that that is not what you are doing, because now you are assuming my head screws on.

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            The only fair assumption from you saying that it is offensive to you is that it is offensive to you. Not everyone.

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            ‘I’m saying that blacking up was only used in a derogatory manner in a very specific time period of oppression in the U.S. People that do that today typically have no idea that ever even occurred. Just like the people that get offended never experienced that.’

            Yes I did. I saw The Black and White Minstrel Show on television as mainstream entertainment when I was a kid, and I didn’t live in the US: it was not a US-only phenomenon.

            As a 9 year-old child desperately needing the bathroom, I had to walk past a public toilet, because it was for white people only, and keep going till I found one that my less-than-acceptable young self was permitted to use.

            When I asked why we never had family holidays to the beach like other kids, I was told it was because we wouldn’t all be allowed to go to the same beach. My parents’ marriage was interracial and the beaches were segregated.

            My grandparents were forced to sell their business because it was in a ‘Whites Only’ area after the boundaries were drawn.

            My cousins were asked to leave their private school because a parent of one of the other kids figured out that they weren’t white.

            That is the tip of the iceberg. And I am not exactly elderly.

            My Australian cousin tells me that blackface is still a widely accepted part of mainstream culture there. And there is currently a petition running to ask the Australian government to insist that all schools teach Aboriginal history. Seriously!

            When people say that this stuff is offensive, it is because it *is* within the memory of a lot of us living today. We have lived it all. And some people are still living it. So please do not suggest that those of us taking offense at this stuff is some kind of self-indulgent, self-important desire to inconvenience others or make them feel uncomfortable. It is not.

            And yes, it is offensive to me, and not to you, because you have not lived it and so you can’t understand the power and pain of these images, or the way they play into our daily lives and hurt us even now, or how they evoke painful memories.

            These images are offensive to me, and they are offensive to many others. They are sufficiently offensive that somebody went to the expense and trouble of making these posters and running this campaign. Believe me, this is meaningful.

            And I feel that the voices of those of us who spent our whole childhoods being told that we were ‘less-than’ saying that we are offended and hurt by this should count for rather more than the voices of those who are simply saying: ‘But we *want* to do this, and you’re spoiling our fun!’

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            “And I feel that the voices of those of us who spent our whole childhoods being told that we were ‘less-than’ saying that we are offended and hurt by this should count for rather more than the voices of those who are simply saying: ‘But we *want* to do this, and you’re spoiling our fun!’”

            – Amen.

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            I’ve already responded to someone who pointed out that minstrel shows were more widespread and in other time periods than what I thought. I acknowledged this…I don’t have the time or energy to go through all of that again.

            And you’re right, I can’t understand your experiences. But your experiences are yours. Your views are yours. You don’t speak for an entire minority. While a lot of others are offended, a lot of others are not.

            And I’m not saying you’re spoiling my fun. I don’t do it. I don’t particularly care because I won’t practice it in my own life. I care about thinking about this sensitive subject and really talking about it and exploring it, rather than just saying “No. Racist. Period.”

            And I think everyones opinions should count on this one. Not just those from minorities. Just because I’m white doesn’t mean I can’t examine the situation and form a good opinion on it. And I’ve said multiple times that whatever is said by individuals of minorities should always be respected, particularly with blackface those of the African American population, as it directly affects them most.

            And I’ve already said the above images were offensive as well. I’ve said that multiple times.

            I’m not saying blackface is just fine whenever. I’m not saying it’s never been racist and extremely offensive. NOT AT ALL. I’m saying that in the U.S., where I live and thus where I’m talking about, we are past the times of minstrel shows and I think it’s time that we start examining blackface outside of that one context. I’m saying that it is a debated, sensitive topic and I would like to see more individuals handling it on an individual basis. That prevents extremism and polarization. And that prevents some individuals from assuming the voice of an entire race, on both sides of the argument.

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            ‘You don’t speak for an entire minority. While a lot of others are offended, a lot of others are not.’

            This is a deeply emotional issue for me, and I have written more emotionally than I usually do. But I’m pretty sure I’ve never said that I speak for an entire minority. That statement is an intellectually dishonest attempt to de-legitimise my point. I don’t mean to say that you are intentionally being dishonest, but rather that the argument itself is a dishonest one.

            In fact, I specified in my above post that the people I spoke for are those who, like me, are offended by these images, and those who, like me, find them painful as a result of our past experiences. In other words, people who have the same view on this issue that I do. That is not unreasonable.

            I should add here that the argument that one is being logical in the face of an unreasonably emotional or hysterical individual is historically an argument from privilege against the oppressed. Not that I mean to suggest that I am currently oppressed, just that this is worth bearing in mind. It has been used by men against women, by straight against gay, by slave owners against slaves and by conquerors against the conquered. It is a patriarchal and condescending argument whose only purpose is to emphasise the user’s moral and intellectual superiority over those who disagree with them.

            I cannot help but feel that you are far more deeply emotionally committed to your views than your appeal for logic might suggest. Your response on this thread is very, very similar to many men’s response to the feminist movement in the 70s and 80s. Yes, it is uncomfortable to feel that you or people you know may have inadvertently hurt other people. I’m sure you’re a decent, kind human being and it’s naturally upsetting to think that you may have hurt people without even realising it. The problem is that people in that position often start to feel under attack, and defensive, and then annoyed that we are so “over-sensitive” and “won’t let it go”. And we feel unheard and angry at the insensitivity of the arguments…

            You see how that works? It’s not logical at all, on either side, and expecting me (and others) to be able to pack our emotions away tidily so that you needn’t feel uncomfortable is not going to work. Any more than you are able to pack away your defensiveness that whatever you or your friend did, it *can’t* have really upset anyone because you are nice, well-intentioned people. So the person who was upset must have been unreasonable and unkind. This kind of response *does not* aid understanding between differing groups: it drives us apart because we each feel misunderstood.

            ‘Just because I’m white doesn’t mean I can’t examine the situation and form a good opinion on it.’

            Every one of us offends inadvertently sometimes. As long as we listen mindfully to the person we have offended and try not to repeat the hurt, it’s OK.

            You know, for absolutely ages I thought of Jewish people as white people with a different religion. It wasn’t until a Jewish woman said something to me about anti-Semitism, and I said, ‘But that’s not really a thing, right? It was only the Nazis,’ that I was educated about that. The example that stuck in my mind was that her college roommate was very friendly till she found out she was Jewish, when she stopped talking to her. Then one night she woke up in the dark to find the roommate sitting beside her bed, just staring at her face. Creepy or what?!

            Similarly, I always thought Romany people had no problems with prejudice, till I got to know a Rom woman who told me that her son had loads of friends at school till she told another parent that she was Rom. Suddenly none of the other kids was allowed to play with him anymore.

            What I am trying to say here is that we *all* misunderstand the challenges of others’ experiences, and we *all* have things to learn, regardless of our own ethnic background. But we can’t fix any of the problems or become more unified by dismissing each others’ experiences as irrelevant or unrepresentative. If one person has experienced something, then the chances are that it is not a unique experience or incident: there will be others with similar experiences.

            I recounted some of my experiences simply in an effort to put into context for you and others *why* this is still such a painful issue for a lot of us. It’s important to understand that, even when it seems to those of us who are outside a specific group that there is no longer any oppression of that group, this doesn’t mean that our assessment of the situation is accurate. *From my point of view* I thought that Jewish and Romany people had no problems. I was wrong.

            From *your point of view* the US is past the time of the minstrel shows. But then there’s this: http://www.aolnews.com/2011/04/08/46-percent-of-mississippi-republicans-want-interracial-marriage/?a_dgi=aolshare_facebook. It’s hard to examine any issue of prejudice without accepting that things like this are part of the culture and therefore part of the discussion, and have an impact on how people respond.

            ‘I would like to see more individuals handling it on an individual basis’
            This is only possible if people are prepared to offend, and keep offending, other people, on the offchance that they will one day end up in a group of people where nobody is offended.

            I’m not sure where this idea comes from that taking offense is optional. The hurt of these images is a visceral response, not a choice. Having said that, I am honestly happy for those for whom taking offense actually is a choice. It sounds as though they’ve led charmed lives up to now, and long may it continue! :)

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            I wasn’t saying that you said you were speaking for the entire minority…I was saying that saying that blackface is in all ways racist and offensive tends to come across as speaking for an entire minority..

            My whole point in mentioning logic is that I’m really not emotionally invested in this. As I’ve stated before, I’ve only had one friend dress up as even debatably offensive. I myself was an owl.. And that one friend was a friend like 4 years ago. Currently, I only have one or two people I would actually call a friend, both of which are people of color and both of which I’ve actually discussed this with. Also, it wasn’t an attempt to de-legitimize your point fully. It was just to say that in this conversation, that’s not what I’m getting at.

            I do like to think that I’m decent. But I’m on here talking about this primarily because one of my majors at university is religious studies. Most of my classes have elements teaching about racism, classism, etc. We recently had a conversation very similar to this in class. I’m also sorry you think this resembles a classic oppressive argument on my behalf. Again, I don’t care what people do, as I don’t partake in it. I’m interested in topics that have been historically labeled offensive or racist, typically because of one or two events, and asking people to think for themselves about it rather than getting overemotional automatically or taking others words for it.

            Emotion is certainly important. It’s just not for the point I was trying to make. My acknowledgement of emotion was in saying that if a person of color says that your costume is offensive, you should listen. Whether or not you agree. Respect is always of utmost importance. What I’m interested in is the discussion about why, logically, that should or should not be offensive in particular scenarios.

            It’s just interesting to me to see what people think. And most of my argument on here has actually just been in favor of people handling the issue on an individual basis, so that they get to think about it. To discuss it.

            ‘Just because I’m white doesn’t mean I can’t examine the situation and form a good opinion on it.’<—–That statement didn't have anything to do with offense or not. It had to do with the legitimacy of my opinion on the matter.

            I know that there are many problems. I know its sensitive. However, the idea that offense is optional stems from my request that emotion be generally put aside for the sake of discussion…For example, rather than just get offended, a person should think about intent, the situation, what the person was portraying. Perhaps ask the person about these things. I want those two people, the person wearing the costume and the person viewing them unsure about how to receive it, to talk about the issue. One on one.

            I'm not saying people should just head out in blackface. That's probably actually a really bad way to go about it. That was just my suggestion for when it already was occurring. Instead, I think that people should just make more efforts to talk about sensitive, polarizing issues.

            I don't want to see more people offended in the name of exploring an issue. Where I come from, I see a lot of black and white people in the same place, just hardly interacting. The white people see something the black people do and make snide comments, and vice versa. What I want is an effort on the parts of all of those individuals to break down the barriers between them and discuss the issues keeping them apart. What is offensive and why, what they don't understand and why, etc.

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            Clarification on when I say “That was just my suggestion for when it already was occurring” above. I wasn’t saying people heading out in blackface was my suggestion. I was referring to earlier when I said I promoted people handling it as individuals, and how that is better for when it is already happening.

            I’m so good at words :p

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            ‘It’s just interesting to me to see what people think.’

            Now you see, I don’t think it really is interesting to you, at least, unless we agree with you. And I think this because it feels like no matter what anybody says, you are sticking to your guns like grim death. I don’t feel that you are listening to anyone who disagrees with you: I feel that you are trying to convince us that your argument is superior and is the ‘One True Way’.

            The issue is not as simplistic as you imagine. Emotions are involved here, and yes, your own emotions of hurt at feeling criticised and excluded are clearly also involved. There’s honestly no point in insisting on logic if what you actually mean is that you are trying to crush down and ignore your own anger. It will come out in another way, and it has.

            I am honestly not trying to be hypercritical here, but please, you need to understand that emotional issues cannot be resolved with the kind of logic that refuses to take those very emotions into consideration.

            Emotion is part of the human condition. We have to accept it and work with it. And I say that as someone who rationalises almost everything. In order to obtain meaningful results from logical thinking about a human situation (as opposed to a mathematical or logistics problem) we *have* to take human emotion into consideration in our ruminations.

            ‘What I want is an effort on the parts of all of those individuals to break down the barriers between them and discuss the issues keeping them apart.’

            You see, this advertising campaign is precisely a part of that effort. It is clearly stating that some people find this sort of thing deeply offensive, and that this is one of the issues that is ‘keeping them apart’. It is an appeal to the community which is unaware of giving offense to please stop doing this. Stopping doing this would help to break down at least one barrier.

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            If you would like to think that, I can’t stop you. But I’m not. I don’t think there’s any “one true way” in life. About anything. Just because I stick to my opinion and defend it doesn’t mean that I’m trying to say there is. It just makes it my opinion. People have discussions all the time, and enjoy the discussion, yet come out of it still having their same beliefs. And I had enjoyed talking about this with you, until you said this.

            Again, I didn’t say emotion shouldn’t be involved. I acknowledged it was. I’m not out in real life saying “Stop being crybabies. Let’s sit down and get logical.” I’m on a familiar site, just trying to discuss the logical side of the situation. I know it’s not simplistic. I’ve talked about this with quite a number of people.

            I agree that this is what the campaign is trying to do. And it has been good in a sense that everyone is talking about it. However, I would focus on the discussion the campaign provides to talk about the issues, why they’re offensive, and why rather than all people just automatically stopping every form of costume associated with race (for example, specific persons of color, not stereotypes) automatically. I think people talking about it has been the best part.

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            ‘I had enjoyed talking about this with you, until you said this.’

            I guess that’s the big difference, Jen. I have not been enjoying this discussion at all. Bad memories, awakened by this discussion, have been keeping me awake and tearful at night. It’s not simply academic to me.

            The pain that this issue has caused me and my family, the trouble that it has caused between family members… well frankly there are some things that are simply too heavy to share anywhere, let alone on the internet, so on the whole I don’t.

            I’ve been working hard to try to see your point of view, and to put my feelings aside to try to explain my point of view, in the hope that you would understand if I could just get it right. I told myself that you were maybe just too young to understand, then I told myself off for being patronising, because there are others on this site who are your age and yet they understand. Perhaps the issue is one of experience. Perhaps you will not understand until you face something similar yourself, and honestly, I hope you never do.

            Your concept of trying not to take offense, and instead trying to see the other person’s point of view, is not a novel one, honestly. It is something I do every day of my life; something that I have been doing for every moment of this conversation.

            The only reason I have continued to reply to you is because I think of those who are older than me, who have seen and experienced worse than I have, or even those who are still experiencing this type of oppression, who would be more hurt and upset than I am by this. It may be more common in the US than elsewhere, but we live in a world where information is disseminated worldwide: it can certainly have an impact on people in other countries.

            This was not an interesting intellectual discussion for me; I was hoping you would be able to see my point of view, because you’ve written so much about dialogue on an individual basis, but I feel that I am getting nowhere, so I am frustrated.

            The fact is, I don’t think you can have a conversation about an emotional issue without taking that emotion into account. The discussion does not take place in a vacuum. And the fact is that this particular discussion is clearly far more difficult, emotionally, for me than it is for you. Which is why I have not been replying every day.

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            Just to add: I sincerely apologise for offending you. At that point, I was writing from the heart but not considering how painful what I wrote would be for you to read. I don’t mean any of this as a personal attack.

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            I think, logically, I understand your point of view. But, like you said, I haven’t experienced what you have. And it’s hard for me to realize just how hurtful and sensitive something is when I haven’t been there.

            I know that we differ in view points but honestly these sentences: “Your concept of trying not to take offense, and instead trying to see the other person’s point of view, is not a novel one, honestly. It is something I do every day of my life; something that I have been doing for every moment of this conversation,” are all I was trying to get at. I wasn’t trying to promote something hurtful. Ultimately, I want more people like you. You think about things. You consciously think about these issues, when it would be so easy for you not to.

            And I’m so sorry to have caused you pain. It makes me wish you had simply said it was too hurtful to talk about. I would’ve understood. Not everyone can talk about it. Some things hurt too much. I just hope that, one day, painful experiences like yours will happen less and less, until, one day, they won’t happen.

            I am also truly sorry that I am frustrating you. I also wish you enjoyed discussing this with me, although I can see why any discussion of this is not possible. If it helps at all, I also lost quite a bit of sleep over this article. Not for the same reason, of course. But I honestly cried because I was trying very hard to get across my point in a non-offensive manner, yet apparently could not. So again, as much as possible, I am reading what you are saying and trying my best to understand.

            And, to be honest, I don’t think I disagree with you on much. I was just pushing for change and progress because I didn’t realize the issue was still so fresh and hurtful. Even after having conversations about the issue with students and teachers many times, we are all still privileged and most of us are from this same area, so an issue that may now be less relevant for us may cause someone like you nightmares just by being mentioned. For some reason, perhaps out of tiredness, even upon reading your experiences earlier I failed to realize just HOW upset it made you still.

            I still think that it should be talked about, but I realize now is not the time. I also realize that I cannot determine the time. You and others who have suffered from this will have to decide when that is appropriate.

            So, thank you for talking to me. I see a little bit more how much effort it took to do so, and it is rather heroic that you would cause yourself so much pain to help a person you don’t even know understand. Also, I know you didn’t say this, but I’m really not inhuman. I enjoy talking about issues in an academic sense. But this wasn’t the same. I’ve enjoyed talking to you simply because you are so thoughtful in your responses and you actually pay attention. Even though, for most of our conversation, we disagreed. And I know you can’t help it, because the topic hurts so much, but I just wish you felt even remotely the same way. People like you are hard to come by.

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            I’m incredibly late to this party, but I feel the need to point out that blackface is absolutely not widely accepted in mainstream culture here. One group of particular morons did it in a variety show run by people equally as irresponsible. Most rational people were completely aware of the fact that this is not ok. The very loud, very badly disguised racists among us brought up the usual ‘PC is bullshit’ arguments.

            However, I will agree that the treatment of Aboriginal people is an ongoing national disgrace.

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            “I’m saying that blacking up was only used in a derogatory manner in a very specific time period of oppression in the U.S. People that do that today typically have no idea that ever even occurred.”

            Wait…what? I was born in 1990 and I always knew that blackface was considered offensive. It’s hardly something that is confined to history; it definitely still is associated with racism.

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            “And I think everyones opinions should count on this one. Not just those from minorities.”

            NO THEY SHOULDN’T. are you kidding? you seriously think the opinions of people who WOULDN’T be affected by the legacy of racist mintrelsy and blackface should carry the same weight as the people who it actually does effect? are you fucking kidding? explain it away and defend it all you want, but painting yourself up in blackface is racist. and fine, if you search the entire globe, i’m sure you’ll find some black people who this isn’t offensive to, but who the fuck cares? RIGHT HERE, in your face, many people of color have told you that blackface is offensive. one person even told you their person experience with it and segregation.open your eyes! why isn’t that ENOUGH for you? i hope you know how RACIST it is to for you to just completely disregard the viewpoints of black people explaining to you why blackface is offensive. what is wrong with you?

            why is it so important for you to keep defending it and coming up with excuses for when it’s acceptable? it’s not! now YOU get over it. intent DOES NOT MATTER. it’s still racist. and after someone explains that something is racist, if the person committing the offense has the nerve to defend it, it’s even WORSE. and that’s where you’re at. now, if you want to continue to defend this, understand that you are coming off at BEST as willfully ignorant and insensitive. don’t try to pretend you’re anything else.

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            It strikes me that this: “My whole point in mentioning logic is that I’m really not emotionally invested in this” just sums it up. Lucky them that they don’t HAVE to be emotionally invested. To me that is one of the most privileged things in the whole exchange.

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            I wasn’t disregarding anyones opinions until you came along. You alone have been ten times more offensive than anything I’ve said. And responses like yours are why people can’t talk about it. Everyone has opinions. You can’t just say, “Well yours don’t count because you’re white and privileged.” Some of the links on here go to articles written BY WHITE PEOPLE about white privilege. But their opinions count when they completely agree?

            No, I’m not “fucking kidding you.” I wanted to talk about it. You just shut that down.

            Also, you should actually read everything I wrote on this thread. I in no way disregarded her experience nor have I been defending blackface as a whole. I have said multiple times my intent was to talk about the issue and promote individuals handling it when it occurred.

            Also, saying I’m not emotionally invested in something is privileged in a sense that, yeah, I’m lucky that I’m white. But that wasn’t at all what that post was referring to. I was describing the why I wanted to talk about it in terms of logic, rather than emotion, in this particular discussion. Not because emotion isn’t relevant.

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            don’t even begin trying to use a tone arguementhttp://abagond.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/the-tone-argument/ with me. GET REAL. there is no taking the emotion out of this for many black people. how is experiencing segregation and blackface as a child supposed to be UNEMOTIONAL? and under the guise of being “logical” and detached about something you can never experience, you have been extremely rude, offensive, and dismissive all up and down this thread. you not only tried to make excuses for when blackface is acceptable even though all the black people here repeatedly told you they felt it was offensive ALL THE TIME, but you had the nerve to tell black people that they should “get over” finding it offensive, and that your opinion on the subject is just as valid as the group of people who are actually being denigrated by the practice of black face! what makes you think i should respond nicely to YOUR rude behavior? what makes you think i should respond with clinical detachment to the racism you are exhibiting? i’m pissed off that i have to encounter your UNENDING obtuseness, entitlement, and white privilege on a lesbian website that purports to respect intersectionality but lets commenters like you run amok. i have every right to show it.

            and essentially agree with what? that white people don’t know what systematic racism feels like and need to DEFER to people of color when people of color say something is racist and offensive? that their opinions about what is or isn’t racist can never be as valid as the group ACTUALLY experiencing systematic racsim? that they need to be ALLIES to people of color in dismantling systematic racism and that one way of doing that is LISTENING? if any of the white authors opinions about white privilege state any of this then yes their opinions count.

            i’d LOVE to see your reaction if a man tried to be dismissive of something you felt was sexist or if a straight person tried to tell you that not letting gay people adopt children wasn’t homophobic. that’s what YOU are doing right now. this is how YOU are behaving. and it’s REPULSIVE.

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            you need to read the rest of this page. i’ll just leave it at that. there’s no point in responding to someone who only responds to one part of the conversation and takes it out of context, especially when it has previously been addressed and resolved by me and the person i was talking to.

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            Also, commenters like me “run amok” because there can be people who want to talk about things but disagree with you. It is normal to get offended. But I talked about it successfully with the person above regardless. I wasn’t trying to be offensive, but she helped me realize in what way I was being insensitive, and then we clarified in what circumstance body paint is okay and when it is not okay. That conversation was not easy, but it certainly helped me understand better and clarify my position.

            I was not inherently racist. I was not saying her emotion or “tone” is not relevant. Again, all of this is resolved and talked about earlier.

            I didn’t troll. I didn’t sit here and say anything obscene about a race. I voiced my opinion and discussed it. What is truly repulsive is that you find so much damn offense in that. That I am supposed to not even what…be allowed to voice my opinion on this website by having my comments removed? You can respond the way you respond. Go ahead. But you won’t find that it helps a thing. You haven’t contributed to anything. All you have done is call me names. That I don’t even feel I deserve. Go read the rest of the conversation and actually try to see what I said. See where I said I was wrong. See where things were resolved. Don’t just scroll and skip around and react to things already discussed.

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            i’m so flabbergasted i don’t even have the time or the energy anymore. i will just reiterate that there is really NO TIME OR OCCASION when black face is acceptable because even if the intention is not to be racist or malicious it is still VISCERALLY offensive to many black people based on it’s history.

            and i also want to add this:

            http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/09/23/individual-racism-alive-and-well/

            this is when students at students at Hautes Etudes Commerciales, who put on blackface as part of a skit in “honor” of Jamacian Olympian Usain Bolt. they weren’t INTENTIONALLY being racist but they WERE.

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            if you are saying this:

            Unless whoever is dressing up has a skilled make-up artist at their disposal, they will not look ‘more like the person’ at all. They will look hideously grotesque. A white person in blackface does not look anything like a black person (possibly unless they have a skilled make-up artist, as I said before). So any intended ‘tribute’ can only backfire. Nobody is the same colour all over.

            means that there are appropriate occasions for donning blackface, it does not. because most people don’t have a professional makeup artist at their disposal. and even if they DO, it can still be VISCERALLY offensive to many black people based on the HISTORY of blackface to see white people darkening up their skin color to impersonate a black person in any context AT ALL. and black people have EVERY SINGLE RIGHT to feel offended. that is why it is better to NEVER DO IT. if you want to pay homage to a black person, find some other way to do it besides darkening your skin color to “look” like them. it is NOT a hardship to go throughout life never wearing black face.

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            and i find it laughable that you believe you added SO much more to the discourse here. on your quest to justify occassions when blackface is “acceptable” you: told black people to get over being offended by black face, you attempted to equate the opinions of white people on whether or not black face is offensive to the opinions of people who blackface ACTUALLY effects, and you were dismissive when black commenters told you they found black face offensive and hurtful in every instance by replying that their experiences and opinions were singular and therefore shouldn’t be “catered” to. as though going throughout life and not being able to do blackface is hard as not being able to breathe. but it was ALL worth being dismissive, insensitive, rude, and RACIST because YOU, who couldn’t be bothered to be concerned about anyone’s feelings “learned” something. black people are not here to teach you. you’re already on the internet and you could have learned about this all by yourself without having to consistently step all over the feelings of black people so that you could eventually reach some kind of epiphany. and i’m done.

            this is for you:

            http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#educate

            and these are some things i noticed you doing :

            Your Experience Is Not Representative Of Everyone
            Unless You Can Prove Your Experience Is Widespread I Won’t Believe It
            You’ve Lost Your Temper So I Don’t Have To Listen To You Anymore
            If You Won’t Educate Me How Can I Learn
            You’re Being Overemotional
            You’re Being Hostile
            But That Happens To Me Too!

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            I’m so glad that I don’t surround myself with people like you.

            You literally take everything I say to the worst possible extreme. Which is why talking to you is not worth my time.

            I never said my opinions were *as* relevant. I was just saying they count. I never said her emotions are not relevant. I just said that I wasn’t trying to talk about the emotional aspect. When she made it clear that it was not possible, I stated that that was okay.

            I never said I added SO much more to anything. I didn’t have an epiphany. And I don’t think that asking people to not be “hostile” is in some way privileged in this example. It’s because you can’t really talk about things that way. I also said that she could have told me at any point that she could not talk about it and I would have understood.

            I also said that clearly the topic was too sensitive to talk about now. I never said that their opinions on the offensiveness of blackface shouldn’t be “catered” to. I was saying that everyone should deal with the issue more individually so that more people are consciously thinking about it. And I wasn’t trying to say that people should just go out in blackface. In fact, I said that they shouldn’t do that. I was advocating discussion about it, when the people of minorities involved were ready to talk about not only this, but other issues.

            I was not saying blackface is always okay. And I agree that the history of it is more fresh in the minds of people that I had previously realized. Asking people to handle the issue individually and advocating talking about it when people are ready is not racist. It’s just not. And I’m not telling you to chill out because you shouldn’t be offended or angry or whatever — I can’t tell you what to feel. I’m telling you to chill out because I’m trying to talk to you person to person, not as a white person to a person of color, and it’s pretty impossible to reasonably discuss with someone who constantly insults you and does shit like this:

            “Your Experience Is Not Representative Of Everyone
            Unless You Can Prove Your Experience Is Widespread I Won’t Believe It
            You’ve Lost Your Temper So I Don’t Have To Listen To You Anymore
            If You Won’t Educate Me How Can I Learn
            You’re Being Overemotional
            You’re Being Hostile
            But That Happens To Me Too!”

            I’m not five years old. Stop copying and pasting from a website about something you have decided I’m doing so adamantly that I couldn’t convince you that is just NOT THE POINT even if I had the time and energy.

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            and thank god i don’t surround my self with people like you. i surround myself with anti racist white people, so that i that i don’t have to deal with unchecked white privilege and insensitive, entitled and rude behavior like yours. (although that may just also be the type of person you are.)

            i added the link to “derailing for dummies” because as a privileged person, that’s exactly what you were doing. if i was a moderator, i would’ve cut you off at the knees a long time ago and explained why your conduct was out of line. i also added the link to let you know that your behavior and commentary ISN’T EVEN ORIGINAL. no matter how “hard” and “necessary” you think this conversation was, your comments were derailing, RECOGNIZABLE, and repulsive. your comments are the recognizable result of an entitled and obtuse individual who refuses to acknowledge and address their privilege. i didn’t read your entire comment because i’m not interested in reading any more bullshit where you AGAIN try to justify your atrocious behavior on this thread. suffice to say if you haven’t looke at any of THE MANY links that people graciously left your obtuse ass, and you derail like this again, i’ll do the same thing over again, where i point out how and where you are derailing with your unchecked white privilege. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR, AND LEARN FROM THIS.

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            I’ve read all of the links posted. I’m not failing to address my privilege. It has been addressed.

            Learn to read.

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            yea, and someone should have told you to learn to read and comprehend what you read the FIRST time a black commenter explained to you why blackface was offensive. then you wouldn’t have wasted so much time offending people and looking like a damn fool trying to justify it.

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            That would have been unnecessary seeing as how I have read and comprehensively considered all points brought up from the beginning. I have amended my opinion along the discussion. Some posters explained better than others, and some brought up better points/analogies than others.

            It’s not like I sat down right before writing my last post and skimmed through everything just so I could say I read it and not be a liar.

            Also, the second half of what you said is irrelevant, because, again, your failure to read has resulted in you repeating information that is neither what I was trying to do nor what I did do in the course of he conversation. I’m not going to repeat how you’re wrong. I’m assuming if you’re calling me a damn fool you can figure it out yourself.

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            and my point was that if you had bothered trying to comprehend what you were reading, then you would have stopped in your tracks THE FIRST TIME a black person explained to you why blackface was offensive. instead you went on and spent comment after comment being extremely offensive. in your comments you have discounted the feelings of black people who find blackface offensive, told people who DON’T EVER have the luxury of being emotionally detached from racism not to be “hostile”, tried to find occasions when blackface is justifiable, and used numerous tactics out of the privileged and derailing handbook because it was a “hard” conversation and your need “learn” superseded the need for this to be a safe and comfortable space for black people. if you SERIOUSLY think you weren’t derailing and didn’t use tactics such as the “Your Experience Is Not Representative Of Everyone”, “You’re Being Overemotional”, and “Unless You Can Prove Your Experience Is Widespread I Won’t Believe It” then i don’t know what to say you, maybe you have a problem comprehending what you yourself write as well as what others write. all i can say is the first step for you to show that you REALLY “addressed” your privilege would be for you to stop trying to justify and rationalize your conduct on this thread. pretty much NONE of it was okay.

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            oh, you. new year and all and you’re still not up on that reading comprehension.

            can we just be done with this comment thread? we mutually dislike pretty much all of what the other is saying. and i’m okay with that, i just don’t see the point in continuing this.

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            awww, and i see that you’ve continued projecting your own lack of reading comprehension and lack of basic manners onto me. (and to pre-empt any asinine response from you about MY tone let me just REITERATE that i only speak this way to people who are rude first, which is an understatement for your offensive, racist, and absurd behavior all over this thread). you kept going until you found someone who said something you liked in and in way that you liked. you kept going until you found someone who would say that blackface is okay if you have a professional makeup artist and you even congratulated them on their “tone” with you. you are so FUCKING TRANSPARENT.

            the reason i dislike what you’ve said is that it’s dripping in privilege and is couched in racism. and if you look at many of the OTHER BLACK COMMENTERS who responded to you, i’m not THE ONLY ONE who feels that way. why don’t like what I’VE said again? oh, is it because it was spot on and i wasn’t particularly nice in the way i responded to you? oh well, you should of thought of that before you went on forever trying to defend your indefensible, flimsy position in the most offensive ways possible.

            i’m done with this thread if you are, but if you want to keep on going with your derailing, we can do that too.

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            and i see that you’ve continued projecting your own lack of reading comprehension and lack of basic manners onto me. (and to pre-empt any asinine response from you about MY tone let me just REITERATE that i only speak this way to people who are rude first, which is an understatement for your offensive, racist, and absurd behavior all over this thread). you kept going until you found someone who said something you liked in and in way that you liked. you kept going until you found someone who would say that blackface is okay if you have a professional makeup artist and you even congratulated them on their “tone” with you. you are so FUCKING TRANSPARENT.

            the reason i dislike what you’ve said is that it’s dripping in privilege and is couched in racism. and if you look at many of the OTHER BLACK COMMENTERS who responded to you, i’m not THE ONLY ONE who feels that way. why don’t like what I’VE said again? oh, is it because it was spot on and i wasn’t particularly nice in the way i responded to you? oh well, you should of thought of that before you went on forever trying to defend your indefensible, flimsy position in the most offensive ways possible.

            i’m done with this thread if you are, but if you want to keep on going with your derailing, we can do that too.

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      Two things. First off, why does one have to alter their race to be a character of another race? If you want to dress up as Lil Wayne, why not focus on his hair and tattoos and let that speak for you? I’ve dressed up for YEARS as people who were not my race, and I never altered my skin tone to be them. This year, I’m being Blaine from Glee (a white/Filipino person). I’m black. I’m not going in whiteface; I think people will be able to figure out who I am.

      Second, people don’t really need to get over blackface. If it’s offensive, it’s offensive. It has a long, hurtful history (that actually gets taught in some schools) and you don’t have to be a history buff to know about it (it’s been talked about in pop culture, every Halloween some news story comes out about offensive costumes, and some people grow up learning about it because it’s the history of how their country has treated people who look like them). And if you do find yourself where you really don’t know that it’s offensive, well, you should listen when someone tells you it is! It’s not being overly sensitive; it’s having some pride in yourself and your history.

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        That’s great that you’ve done that. But, everyone shouldn’t have to. I’m OCD and it would bother me to so obviously lack in a part of my costume. Also, having seen people do that, nobody has recognized what they were going for. People usually want costumes to be realistic, and race happens to be a component.

        Having pride in yourself and your history should actually permit what I’m talking about. I’m not referring to when I originally said, “get over it.” I can admit that was rather poorly phrased and too generalized for what I’m saying. All I’m saying is that others can have pride in the history of people of your race as well. You and others should be able to distinguish between the well meaning and those who are truly racist, in general. I already said that if someone of a minority says your costume is offensive, in particular, you should listen. However, as a whole, blackface should not be just labeled offensive. People have minds and can use them to determine the appropriateness based on various factors. And I think it’s more fair to expect people to think about situations and determine for themselves rather than throwing blackface under the blanket term of “offensive” when not everyone thinks it is in every situation ever.

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          As someone with severe OCD I would like to point out that that is in no way a valid excuse. Treatment is available. If it is not available for you or you can’t afford it guess what? It is very easy not to go to Halloween dressed up as something that you feel requires black/yellow/red face to be complete. You can always go as something else.

          I’m sorry if I sound harsh re treatment but as I was raised by someone who also suffered from it and refused to seek treatment for it I have little tolerence for people who won’t.

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            You don’t sound harsh. That just wasn’t my point. Whether OCD or not, I think some people don’t intend anything bad or racist or are trying to portray all individuals of a race in some demeaning manor by using skin coloration. It is a sensitive subject. But the inherent act of painting oneself is not inherently evil. I’m just saying individuals should see if the person doing it means it to be racist and derogatory or not, and the person who does it should always always always be respectful and only use it as a visual aid, not to add to characterization.

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          If you need your costume to be that exact, it would be better to choose a different costume than to offend.

          Intention is neither here nor there, frankly. I don’t *choose* to be hurt or offended by what hurts and offends me. I don’t *choose* to dwell on or be reminded of painful parts of my past. My here-and-now is busy enough that it seldom comes to mind until some insensitive person shoves it in my face.

          I can understand that a person does not intend to be racist if they accept that what they have done is painful and offensive to me *and to some other people* and does not do it again. I cannot accept that there is no ill intention if they continue to wear the same type of costume in a variety of venues in the hope that perhaps this time nobody will be offended. It means that they are prepared to risk hurting and offending more people simply for the satisfaction of wearing a particular costume. Not a good enough reason. Insensitive, to say the least.

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            It doesn’t offend everyone. I don’t like the idea of just brushing off an issue to play it safe. Talking about issues is generally better.

            Intention does matter. And you do choose to be offended if you are offended. You can consciously decide, situationally, if someone is demeaning you or not. I think it’s wrong to just be offended by someone currently, not using blackface in a derogatory manner, just because someone used it in a derogatory manner in the past.

            It’s not insensitive. I just expect both costume wearers and people who may or may not get offended to think about it, not just automatically be offensive or be offended by one variable of a costume. Context and intention play a role.

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            ‘It’s not insensitive.’

            I’m sorry, but you don’t get to make that call, any more than I get to decide what is or is not insensitive treatment of Jewish, Rom, White or Asian people.

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            By that same token though, you don’t get to make the call that it is insensitive. Those are just both of our individual opinions.

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            This is a false equivalence. You are saying that something is not insensitive because it *doesn’t* hurt or upset you personally. I am saying it *is* insensitive because it *does* hurt and upset me and many other people I know.

            The opinions do not carry equal weight because you don’t have the experience on this particular matter that I have. Which is why I say that I don’t get to decide that something is not insensitive treatment for people who are Jewish, Rom etc.

            If you suffered from, say, incontinence, you might find jokes about incontinence hurtful and insensitive, while I might just think them funny. I would hope that you would tell me that it was insensitive, so that I would not offend you, or other people in your position, in future.

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        Also, what I’m saying is in some ways pointing to the fact that it shouldn’t be “you and your history” in terms of race. It should be us and our history in terms of humans.

        Me asking people to differentiate helps depolarize people of races; labeling that as offensive in all cases just increases the polarization.

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          ‘Me asking people to differentiate helps depolarize people of races; labeling that as offensive in all cases just increases the polarization.’

          No, it doesn’t. It seems like that to you because *you are not offended*. Actually, your ‘solution’ makes the situation worse. You are unable to understand the depth of the problem, because it is not your problem or your experience.

          If a person has a wound, you don’t keep shoving your finger into it and then say ‘It’s OK: this is our shared wound so it shouldn’t hurt’. It is not a shared wound. You feel no pain or offense because you have no reason to feel that pain or to take offense.

          When someone is wounded, you give them the space they need to heal. In this case, that means not dragging up offensive stereotypes until they have lost all power to hurt and offend. That is how we bring people together and make them part of ‘us’. By focussing on our shared interests and goals and ensuring genuine social and economic equality. Not by reminding each other of a past in which we were very separate from one another, with separate drinking fountains and schools (the higher quality ones for ‘whites only’), and expecting us to still see it as ‘all of our human history’.

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            I’m not sticking a finger in a wound repeatedly. I’m saying it’s not the same wound in every case. Blackface can be used today in a different way than it was in the past.

            And again, you are just one person. Most of what you are saying seems to be an emotional appeal based on your past hurts, rather than a logical assessment. I’m asking for the latter. In each and every case, for individuals to use their brains and determine, in context, whether or not blackface is being used in an offensive, racist manner.

            I’m saying blackface by itself, just the simple act of painting a body, should not be automatically racist just because it has a past. It certainly is sensitive. And it certainly is racist in some cases. I just think people should handle it individually because we are all just individuals. Individuals shouldn’t speak for their entire races on divided issues.

            I also beg to differ on your logic of why I hold my opinion. I have stated that I felt offense to the pictures above. I am just saying I can think of situations in which I would not feel offense. When I feel offense, it is because I am a human being. I don’t have to be of your race to empathize with you. So what you’re saying really does just increase polarization. I’m trying to do away with the race lines by all of us talking about it as human beings. You’re somewhat enforcing it by just declaring something as racist, well, because you, speaking for the black race, says so.

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            We are not all just individuals. One gay person being beat up is not one gay person being beat up: it’s an expression of the way society feels about gay people. One white person wearing blackface is not just one white person with brown makeup on their face: it’s an expression of the way we feel about race. For example, your insistence that your skin color must match that of the person you dress as (although you don’t mention how much foundation you wear when you go as a white person) expresses the fact that we think race is a hugely important part of a person’s character. I think race is important – I don’t truck with colorblindness – but I am still disturbed by the idea that the shade of skin is such an important thing to express about a character, especially when blackface has the cultural baggage that it does, in face, have.

            Actions don’t take place in a vacuum. You have insisted up and down this thread that actions must be considered in context, but only in the context *you* think is relevant – the intent of the person. However, there is simply more context than that, and in this context – in the context of 2011 Western countries – it is absolutely impermissible to wear blackface.

            Also, the idea that your sympathetic response to racism is exactly the same as a person of colour’s response to racism is sickening. You cannot know what it is like to be a person of colour. You do not experience racism.

            I recommend that you also go away and read about the concept of color-blind racism before you start saying things like, “I’m trying to do away with the race lines by all of us talking about it as human beings.” Race is relevant to this conversation. I won’t bother to explain it because the last time I explained something to you you complained that I was treating you as if you were ignorant. But start with Tim Wise.

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            Except that’s not entirely true. Sometimes even a gay person being beat up is just an expression of that individual aggressor’s opinion of gay people. Nobody and no individual circumstance can speak for an entire attitude of a society. Because there isn’t one. And one white person wearing blackface can be racist. Absolutely. But it isn’t the opinion of the entire society by any stretch of the imagination. That one white person, yeah. And others, yeah. But not everyone.

            Also, I don’t “insist” that skin color must match that of the person that you go as. I’m just saying I would like it to be an option. And I’ve stated – more than once – that the instances I would like it to be an option are those instances in which it is purely visual. Visual effects do not equal a character. Some people can use visual effects to portray a character, and then some people can use them to simply look more like the person they’re portraying. A person can imitate an outfit of the person, the accent of a person, and not be saying, “this is all that a person is about.” It’s not even saying it adds that much to their portrayal. It’s just saying some people like to look like the person they’re portraying. No more, no less. That’s not saying that they think to themselves, “Damn, I just can’t go as this person unless I paint myself because that defines that person.” That’s saying that maybe they’re just thinking, “I have everything else ready to portray [insert respected individual here]. I just really would like to look as much like [him/her] as I can.” And in some cases, portraying an individual more accurately – not perfectly, but more visually accurately – would mean portraying skin tone if that individual would prefer. They’re not defining that individual, and they’re not saying it adds that much. It just is simply looking more like the person. Various things are used to do this, such as outfits, wigs, make-up of other kinds, etc. I’m saying that the act of painting oneself can be as innocent as other visual effects, in theory.

            I understand it has a cultural baggage. Please just read this and get that I get that. I agree, actions don’t take place in a vacuum. But I am suggesting that people should examine the issue in the modern context. We are creatures of our time. Not of the past. Nearly everything changes, and that is because it is constantly re-examined and reformed based on the present. And I am suggesting that staying in the context of the past on sensitive issues should only be the case for as long as it is necessary for persons of minorities to heal from said past. Because the past is a scar. Progress doesn’t happen by clinging to the past. What happened in the past is terrible in the U.S. Completely awful. But in discussions on the future, when persons are able, I suggest individuals begin reexamining issues in the current context. Which isn’t just intent. It is the present, intent, the situation, what is being portrayed, current issues, etc. And I’m not suggesting the past and minstrel shows are not relevant, I’m simply saying that as they become less and less of the present situation, they should be gradually phased out of the context used to determine offensiveness, in favor of current issues.

            Save your sickness. That is so ridiculously condescending to even say. I never said that my “sympathetic response to racism is exactly the same as a person of colour’s response.” I am just saying that I can, within reason, empathize with them. Empathizing does not assume to be that person. It just acknowledges the fact that we are all human beings. We have all felt pain and felt discrimination of some sort. Oh and by the way, I do experience racism. On a daily basis. But it is not nearly as bad as the experiences of the poster above me. It is ridiculous you would make a blanket statement such as “you do not experience racism” as fact when you do not, in fact, know anything about me, other than I am not a minority in the place that I reside. I may not be a minority, but both black people and people of hispanic origin are coming close to the white population percentage where I live. Depending on where you go in town, the black population is greater. And if you walk into said places and are white, you will get ignored and even laughed at for no other reason than you are in a black owned barbershop/restaurant/hang out/ whatever. It’s not the same systematic racism black people have experienced over generations. But I think it still counts as racism. Is that the same as her experience? No. But can human beings put themselves in others shoes and think about how they would feel? Yes. And it is good when they do, rather than pompously assuming or not caring. I am not her. Nobody is her. But I can try to empathize with her. You could have asked me to elaborate before just getting offended and calling me sickening, which is rather insulting. But hey, making assumptions is just so much easier.

            Also, I have read about that concept. I deal with aspects of racism, classism, and all forms of discrimination in my daily studies at university. I would like to add that we recently debated this topic, and never was anyone in the group, regardless of how they felt on the topic, put down or told they were ignorant or being an ass, etc. I’m not trying to be color blind. I’m trying to say that people are of different races. And that’s great. I personally love my heritage and think others should feel similar pride in theirs, if they so choose. What I was talking about was the “barriers” between people of differing races. Here, white and black people will talk, be friends, etc. But even at a university, I can see clearly black and clearly white sections of the dining hall. Those barriers prevent individuals from talking about deep issues. I don’t want people to be color blind. I want them to celebrate their race in a way that unites and promotes understanding, rather than enforces “race lines.” Which again, where I live, is what I refer to as people literally not interacting with people of other races on a deep, meaningful level that promotes progress. Race is relevant to the conversation, correct.

            And I complained because you blatantly called me ignorant. If you think that someone is ignorant, you would get farther simply educating rather than insulting.

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            ‘Sometimes even a gay person being beat up is just an expression of that individual aggressor’s opinion of gay people.’

            OK, if a person is beaten up because they have annoyed somebody, or because they just happened to be passing by when the attacker felt like beating somebody (anybody) up, then that’s one thing. The attack then is not based on bigotry, but on something personal happening between the two people or within the attacker themself.

            BUT if a person is attacked because of ‘that individual aggressor’s opinion of gay people’ then that is NOT the same. Because a person who was not gay (or not obviously gay, or not known to be gay) would not have been attacked in that situation. This situation has a specific social context. The attacker views gay people in a specific way because of their socialisation; it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In effect, that attack is an attack on the whole community of gay people, because it could have been any of us. Not any *person* but any *LGBT person*. There is a huge difference, and that is why people argue for hate-crimes legislation. In the same way, the KKK would never have lynched a white man, only black men.

            ‘It just is simply looking more like the person.’

            Unless whoever is dressing up has a skilled make-up artist at their disposal, they will not look ‘more like the person’ at all. They will look hideously grotesque. A white person in blackface does not look anything like a black person (possibly unless they have a skilled make-up artist, as I said before). So any intended ‘tribute’ can only backfire. Nobody is the same colour all over.

            ‘And if you walk into said places and are white, you will get ignored and even laughed at for no other reason than you are in a black owned barbershop/restaurant/hang out/ whatever.’

            Yes. That is because it is a ‘safe space’ for that particular group, who clearly still feel the need for such a safe space. Even in the present in various countries and areas, Christians and Pagans need a safe space; women need a safe space from (some) men; LGBT people need a safe space from (some) straight people; Croats have needed a safe space from Serbs etc. It is these few safe places where a beleaguered group feels strong and safe and as though they can finally let their guard down, because they are the majority there and they have like-minded people around them.

            Certainly it is unpleasant to be ignored or mocked (it has happened to me too) but it is necessary to understand that the reason this happens is because that particular group of people does not feel themselves to be an equal part of wider society. It has nothing to do with you or me personally; it is a self-protection thing.

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            Even being a result of socialization at some level, it still doesn’t reflect society as a whole. Where I live, there are oodles of Christian groups doing the anti-gay nonsense. But aside from that limited number of people (yeah, even where I live, where it’s common, it’s still the mocked minority of people doing that).

            EXACTLY.. What I was saying it is not *inherently* racist. It does have to be done well. I totally agree. If that aspect is important to imitate, they should definitely get it done by someone who is skilled. I agree that doing it shoddily is offensive. I’ve seen it done quite well for a play. So well that the tones of the different areas of the body (that were showing) were even reflected.

            The last part is the part where I have the least understanding. However, what I can say is this: I understand the need for a safe space. However, laughing/ignoring someone because of there race that ventures into it, is not okay. Just the same way that I love lesbians and people of all orientations and gender identities. And in many ways, this site is a safe space for me. Where I live, it’s reallyreallyreallyreallyreally hard to find other gay people. But when a straight person comes on here, we don’t just say, “hey, what do you think you’re doing here” or ignore them or go “lololol” whenever they respond. Also, I know that in the particular area I live in, the black population is extremely close to the white population in terms of demographics. Therefore, I guess I don’t understand why they would react that way, still, when I personally have witnessed much less white people being racist than I have black people in this area. This was actually confirmed by the person I dated a year or so ago, of color. Her claim was that they are actually quite racist against both white people and hispanic people. Again, in this region. So, a lot of my personal experience has to do with this particular area.

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            I have no evidence for this statement other than my own experience and observations, but I have noticed that when people are oppressed, they are likely to turn round and oppress the next person down. Or when the oppression lifts, they may well try to oppress their prior oppressors right back.

            It works on everything from an individual to a national basis. From the British oppressing the Boers who promptly turned round and oppressed black South Africans, to abused people becoming abusers, to my friend’s son who was bullied at school and would come home and take it out on the cat, since he had no siblings to take it out on.

            I think Bob Dylan noticed this too, when he sang about poor whites only being able to endure their lives because they could assure themselves that they were better than anybody black.

            Oppression is just another form of bullying, I think. When people are oppressed, then, in the desperate attempt to believe themselves to be better than *somebody*, they are likely to try to find out a group they can despise. Which is where you get, not only racism, but also colourism. Oppression fosters more oppression. People of colour do not necessarily always make common cause in the face of oppression, they divide by shade, by religion, by provenance. Only those outside can see us as a monolithic mass. But I’m sure that holds true in other human sub-divisions as well.

            Anyhow, I think the laughter and ignoring thing is an expression of insecurity and anxiety about one’s own value to and within society. I have known groups of women to burst out laughing when a man draws near, groups of black people to laugh when a white person comes near, groups of white people to laugh when a black person comes near, groups of local people to laugh when an ‘incomer’ comes near…

            It’s about defending one’s space, marking one’s territory, and warning off the stranger. It’s about making oneself feel better and stronger by being part of the group – the in crowd – by defining the outsider as the ‘other’. It’s not a good thing to do, especially as social exclusion is so deeply painful to human beings that it causes activation in the same areas of the brain as physical pain, but it is a *human* thing to do. Sadly.

            ([citation needed] Can’t remember exactly where I about read the study on social exclusion, as it was a while ago. Most likely in the New Scientist about 10 years ago.)

            Also, just to say, *they* are not racist (I understand that this is prob a quote from the girlfriend, not you, but it is very ‘othering’). *Some people* are deeply racist and defensive. Others are less so. A lot can depend on personal experience, and a lot also depends on how self-aware a person is.

            I hope you don’t take offense at what I have said here. I’m pretty ill and tired right now, so I’m not phrasing things as well as I might otherwise.

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            No offense taken at all. I actually really appreciate your responses. Rather than insulting me, you provide thoughtful discussion.

            That explanation actually really makes sense. I just wish it wasn’t the case. If I had to come out with a way that I was emotionally tied to the issue, it’s just that. The discussion about blackface was logical and just something I wanted to talk about, but this issue, how people of different races can just become so polarized, hurts me. I know such amazing people of both and one of my biggest passions is learning about other cultures, etc., and I hate to see large groups of people who not only don’t get to know their fellow human beings on an intimate level, but even treat them with disrespect, even if it is the most basic of instincts to do so. It saddens me.

            And yeah, sorry. I was trying to think about how to phrase what she said into my paragraph and ended up using her terminology–she typically used “they” when talking about the issue to refer to members of the black community in our local area. I don’t think she meant “they” as a whole, since she was a poc, just the community here specifically. I agree it isn’t a good word and didn’t mean to use it outside of her quote and context.

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          As far as being excluded from minority spaces. I have been invited in to many spaces that were not my own. Black spaces. Ally spaces. (yes, I think allies can indeed have a space and experience stresses) Etc. But I had to prove I was humble, and teachable, that I wasn’t there to control the space or the people in it. I myself have welcomed people in to MY spaces, too. I’ve embraced cis men, and straight people, and so on. But they had to show ME that they were going to respect that space, because it was created, primarily, as a safe place to be for my particular group. (think about how sad it is that we still NEED safe spaces, because the greater society is so often not safe) If you want understanding, well. I personally find the way to do that is to be quiet and listen. I’ve been so lucky to hear amazing stories, to have wounded people entrust me with their pain, but I couldn’t have done that and I wouldn’t have heard that if I weren’t educated, and quiet, and genuine. I get what you’re saying, that things aren’t so simple as costumes = bad, or that Black vs. White in these big crashing wave type conflicts is the only racism. BUT it’s like this. If you had a friend who was sensitive to anything, like say, if you knew a friend had a history of being molested by their parish priest, would you go as a caricature of a priest abuser? I doubt it. Then why do it with race? Sure, everyone is free to determine their group of friends and what that group of friends might find funny and what might be considered ok within that group, and ultimately you’ll do what you want, but why is it so hard for you to accept that maybe we have to start understanding by doing away with that which is hurtful? I have yet to see a single person suggest that you must ONLY and ALWAYS dress as someone very strictly of your race, dammit. People are asking not to be mocked, which is what a caricature costume is doing. It’s making light of very raw societal wounds and it’s dismissive as hell. Let me tell you that as a trans person, EVERY SINGLE DAY I experience some little tiny aggression that reminds me society at large thinks I am, at best, a fucking joke, and at worse someone it is acceptable to be violent to. This is one of those ways people are reminded of that same thing as far as race goes.

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            I appreciate this response. And that was, for the most part, what I was trying to say.

            I don’t think that caricature costumes and costumes that mock are okay, which I stated upthread but maybe not down here. I agree that those are awful. And I’m sorry you experience such terrible things. And I don’t mind doing away with the hurtful. I was simply talking about if it was possible or not for people to use paint in a non-racist way, which I think it is, but with a lot of care and effort. I also think it would have to be a very respectful portrayal of a respected individual; not mocking the race as a whole in some way, shape or form. I know they weren’t saying you have to go as your race, strictly. But they were trying to say if you try to show race in your costume, you’re offensive immediately (at least some people on the thread). Again, it may have to be done by a professional make up artist, and be done respectfully, and give great thought into the person the costume is based on, but I think it can be done right.

            Maybe not at this time. It is a very sensitive, hurtful issue right now. But when people are ready to talk about it and their hurts from the past have healed, I think people should talk about it, and define what is okay and what isn’t okay with respect to painting oneself.

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      Thank you for saying this. I myself am Asian and have no problem at all toward people that dress up as geishas. Nor does my family or any of my asian friends. I don’t speak for everyone, but this issue is not nearly as pressing or relevant as it is made out to be. This campaign is a miss.

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    Great article on a great campaign. I’ve never really been bothered by ethnic stereotypes in costume (even as someone who’s half mexican, the sombrero/serape costume has just never bothered me) but I’ve also never really thought about the implications of these costumes or what makes it so easy to parody how someone looks. I think that’s why I like this campaign so much, because it made me look twice at something I had just never questioned before.

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    Well since some say Christopher Columbus killed, raped, and enslaved innocent natives when arriving in America, I had BETTER not see any Christopher Columbus’s walking around on Halloween!

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    Not quite sure where I stand on this yet, but what about Pocahontas? If someone dressed up like her, would that be racist? Along those lines, would it be similarly offensive if an Asian person dressed up as someone who happened to be white, like say, Cinderella? I mean, neither of these are simply stereotypes, they’re real/”real” people. Or is the issue simply in dressing up as a blanket representation of a specific race/ethnicity? Perhaps when the “costume” is focused on having someone who has painted their face black, rather than dressing up in Michael Jackson’s thriller outfit, that is when it’s wrong? Is simply dressing up as someone who is not your race/ethnicity, inherently racist? Like I said, I’m still a little unclear on the lines and what’s acceptable and what isn’t… but I’m interested in other people’s opinions.

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      Dressing up as say Abraham Lincoln or Michael Jackson or a Disney princess like Cinderella is obviously not offensive(Cinderella is a cartoon after all and not a real person) but what this article and campaign is talking about are the people who dress up as offensive stereotypes of racial minorites in general and then acting like we are the uppity ones who are ruining their fun by calling out their dickishness. Take for example the types of costumes used in the ads. An Arab terrorist, really? A guy wearing a sombrero, poncho, and donkey to represent Mexicans. OMG, dude you are so funny!

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      There is a huge difference between those examples. For one thing, Pocohantas, who was actually a REAL person, but is generally only known by her Disney persona, is usually assumed to represent all American Indians, a name which actually encompasses a variety of tribes and cultures. She’s a stand-in for an entire group of peoples. Furthermore, this is a culture that has been marginalized and oppressed for hundreds of years and is still experiencing crimes, indignities, and insults.

      On the other hand, if, as you say, an Asian person dressed up as Cinderella, who is NOT REAL, she would not be presumed to be representing all white people. This is basic oppression theory.

      Here’s a simple test. Does anyone, out there in real life, identify as “Cinderella”? No.

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      The distinction you make between real or historical people and stereotypic caricatures is generally a good rule. I would be hesitant to go so far as emulating the skin colour of a specific person, but that has more to do with the history and racist associations of black face. I don’t see anything wrong with dressing up as specific people without the black/brown/red/yellow face.

      For me, as an Anishinaabe Nishmanidowugikwe things get fuzzy when it comes to the character of Pocahontas. A costume based on the actual historical Pocahontas I wouldn’t find offensive (although how her character has been mis-represented in mainstream history is not unproblematic). There is potential for offense in some Pocahontas costumes because she has been taken as a stand in for all First Nations Ikwek. Sometimes her name is used as a stand in for the “NDN princess” or “sexy sq***” stereotypes (for instance when guys follow me in the street yelling “Pocahontas, Pocahontas, come here”).

      I guess basically what I’m saying is that in my opinion it’s ok to dress as specific people as long as your representation of those people doesn’t play into systemic racim; as painting yourself black plays into the history of black face or a hyper-sexualized “Pocahontas” plays into the high rates of sexual violence against First Nations women.

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        If I’m dresses as a sexy Pocahontas, the Disney princess, am I then considered to be offending the culture? My only problem with this campaign is that, while the examples used are in some cases overtly racist, it can lead to a rush judgment. If a group of my friends all dress up as sexy Disney characters and I’m Pocahontas, some people might assume I’m being racist and treat me as so. I would hate to end up on a campaign poster for people inferring that I’m being offensive.

        I’m not trying to sound cocky or troll-y. I’m honestly interested on people’s thoughts about what crosses the line and what doesn’t.

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          I know because of Hollywood most people probably just associate Pocahontas as just being some Disney Princess. She was a real women with a real story(that doesn’t much resemble the romanticized one Disney chose to tell) who existed in the world at one point.

          That said, dressing as Disney princess like say Cinderella is different than putting on blackface or dressing as an Arab complete with a bomb strapped to your chest(I don’t know how that can be justified as empowering and celebrating a culture like someone else tried to claim down thread). That is in poor taste. STARS isn’t telling people to stop dressing their children up like Disney princesses or ninja turtles. I think most intelligent people know better than to jump to that conclusion. What these people are talking about are the ones who walk around thinking it’s hilarious to dress up as a racial stereotype for shits and giggles and respectfully asking them to think before they go around perpetuating those stereotypes.

          Besides the racial implications of said costumes I mostly find that the people walking around in these getups aren’t as original and clever with their costumes as they think they are.

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          Disney Pocahontas is already offensive because Disney Pocahontas is actually the source of a bunch of harmful stereotypes about and attitudes towards Native American cultures. So I wouldn’t go as her. (Or Jasmine fwiw.)

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    I’m sorry but I don’t really understand this. Why isn’t there a poster of a white person holding a picture of a cowboy costume or a “white trash” costume… maybe because one person dressed as someone from another culture does not a racist statement make. How is dressing as a native american racist? Perhaps dressing as a native american with a beer, yes, quite offensive and stereotypical but as a native american the way they dressed 200 years ago, not so much. Same for the Geisha. They existed it was a part of a culture just like cowboys. Just because someone dresses as a geisha does not mean that is how all of society sees Asian women, that is almost ridiculous for anyone to make that assumption. I don’t find it offensive if someone dresses like a cowboy. I think in a way it is a stereotype for someone to assume that if a white person dresses in these costumes that we see other cultures solely in that way. I don’t understand the black girl’s poster. It’s a black person in the picture and the terrorist costume is just poor taste, no one should dress like that it’s offensive to all those that lost their lives and yes, could be seen as racist. I am white and I do not see all blacks as thugs, all Asians as geishas, all Mexicans as illegals and so on. I am offended that you would think that I would simply because of a halloween costume. It’s a stereotype of this organization to think that all white people view other cultures this way.

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      Where in the article does it say that ALL white people do this
      ? This campaign is calling out a problem that SOME people are participating in and asking them to stop. If you are not specifically participating in this behavior then the article isn’t talking about you.

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      so because SOME people have a problem then none of us can dress like that or is it saying that if I dress like a geisha or a native american I am racist, what exactly is the point then? I am not racist because I dress up in a costume that represents one facet of a different race. Neither is a person of color if they dress as a cowboy. I agree white people are not the only ones that are racially insensitive and to make that implication is racist and stereotypical in itself if we want to be politically correct here.

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        I’d be careful to say “no oppression/discrimination” because members of privileged groups can still experience individualized forms of oppression. But yeah, they don’t experience systematic oppression, and that does make a difference here. Something that only happens occasionally is not going to get to you as much as something that happens constantly.

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          As well as something that pours into every part of your life, including big stuff like work or school, vs. something that only impacts one part. This is also why I get mad when people who were teased for being nerdy or liking weird music or clothes try to act like they know what it’s like to be a bullied gay kid in school, and say things like “I got over it, so should you!” Gay kids are also often experiencing hatred at home and in their religious communities – you don’t get this kind of stuff for being nerdy.

          (Seriously, I did someone on facebook make this argument. Ugh.)

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            Okay, but that still doesn’t take away from white privilege. Like even if you’re a white lesbian, yes you’re oppressed in that you are a) gay and b) a woman but you are still white, so you get privileges with that.

            So her equation (“Dressing as a cowboy isn’t a sensitive issue because white people = majority = power = privilege = no oppression/discrimination/disenfranchisement.”) is correct.

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            I’m not arguing against white privilege. I’m taking issue with her use of the word “no” because it is possible for white people to experience racism on an individualized level. But they don’t experience systematic discrimination, oppression or disenfranchisement (in Western nations, at least). I just thought that should be clarified.

            And that was my point with the gay example. I think you misread it, but I wasn’t trying to argue that white lesbians don’t have white privilege. Rather, I was using the difference being teased for being gay and being teased for being a nerd to show that individualized discrimination is smaller than systematic discrimination (which usually includes individualized discrimination as well).

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            And the reason I thought it should be clarified is not because I’m trying to do a “what about the white people” thing, but just because I think it helps our case to try to make these arguments as clear as possible so people looking to poke holes in them can’t blow them out of proportion.

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        That is ridiculous. Just because white people are in the majority does not mean there can’t be racism or discrimination towards them. Racism, by definition, is hatred or intolerance of another race or the belief that one’s own race is superior over another. In today’s world it really doesn’t have nearly as much to do with majority as it used to. The president of the US is, by his definition, black. Regardless that he is of mixed race most see him as a black man so don’t tell me that people of color can’t achieve power and privilege. Many colleges have scholarships for people of color only but if there was a scholarship for white people only that would be discrimination, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t create a double standard, have the NAACP award, the ALMA awards and still say that as a society white people are racist or discriminatory. Isn’t it discriminatory to assume that blacks and Latinos or any race of color, for that matter, can have their own separate awards, magazines, scholarships, and other such things but whites can’t because slavery happened. Yes it happened and no it should not have. Yes there are still those that are racist but I think that we have come a long way as a country. This campaign is basically saying that white people are discriminatory. Why aren’t any of the pictures showing a person of color wearing a different cultures costume, because no one would bat an eye, it’s only when a white person does it is it discriminatory. That is inherently discriminatory toward white people. If you want to be treated as an equal act like one, by having these separate awards, scholarships, and so forth you are saying as a race, we are separate from you, we are better than you because we can set ourselves apart from you (see definition of racism) and have a separate set of rules and allowances because of the color of our skin.

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      “Why isn’t there a poster of a white person holding a picture of a cowboy costume or a ‘white trash’ costume”

      Because nobody sees those outfits and thinks that those attributes apply to all white people. That’s how privilege works: http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2006-03-08_146

      Although I think a “white trash” costume is offensive, but for reasons that have more to do with classism/regionalism than racism.

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        I’d like to point out that I don’t by an stretch of the imagination assume that all people of Asian descent are geishas, or associate all african americans with Little Wayne. To say that a “white trash costume” was not included on the basis that people don’t assume those attributes apply to all caucasian people seems a little unreasonable. Of course you’re not wrong, but I do believe that the inclusion of caucasians, among other races not mentioned would improve the effectiveness of the campaign.

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          “I’d like to point out that I don’t by an stretch of the imagination assume that all people of Asian descent are geishas, or associate all african americans with Little Wayne.”

          Unfortunately, you’re not everyone. As the author explains in great deal in this post, there are plenty of creepy men out there who see “Asian women” and automatically think “submissive geisha girl.” I can’t think of anyone who feels that same way about all white people and “redneck” stereotypes. They might think all lower-class white people, all rural white people or all white people from the South are like that – but that’s because it’s more about class and region than about race.

          And I don’t think it invalidates this campaign that they don’t include that. Someone else can tackle classism and regionalism, they’re focused on racism here.

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    I’m sure some of you noticed that each picture a student is holding are all of white people in costume.

    This is highly offensive to me! It is saying that white people are the only race who are culturally insensitive.

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    Lmfao! Omg, this campaign is hilarious… I’m hispanic, originally from Central America, and I could care a less what someone dresses up as for Halloween. They could go as Chiquita Banana, Senor Burrito, Fidel Castro, La Virgen de Guadalupe, or any of entrees listed on the Taco Bell menu and it wouldn’t matter to me! It’s all in good fun and trust me, there are plenty of hispanics doing it too, lol!
    I’m sorry but people need to get off their high horses and stop with this nonsense. The United States is sooooo excruciatingly consumed with being politically correct…
    Oh and btw, the guy who’s holding the Native American picture, is for sure Latino, so that should be an indicator of how relevant this campaign is :P
    Happy Halloween Everyone :)

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      Just because you as a person of color could care less about this issue, obviously there are people of color who do find this offensive – and I don’t think you’d argue that your opinion is more significant than theirs.

      Also, some Latino people are Native American. Regardless, why would you question how this man identifies himself?

      Honestly I am so disappointed by so many of the comments in this thread. I have contributed to other threads on the same topic on others sites and am a little exhausted on this subject and pretty upset. But let me just say that black-face is never okay. The U.S. has a disgusting history of minstrel shows, where black-face makeup was used to mock black people. There is no avoiding that history; it is inevitably mocking.

      There are so many other things going on here too, of course… But I’m just gonna go hide under my pillow and cry about humanity now.

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        By the same token, just because certain people are bothered by it, does that mean that their opinion is more important than those who are not bothered by it?
        The people in these posters due not reflect the views of theirs cultures as a whole. My opinion is valid because it is important for everyone to know that not every minority feels this way. Not every minority is still hanging on to the oppression or racism their ancestors or relatives have experienced in the past. Everyone has experienced racism at some point in history.
        One of the commentors on here didn’t feel like dressing up as a Leprechaun and mocking the Irish was equated with the costumes shown in the posters because the Irish aren’t people of “color.” I think that’s kind of ridiculous seeing as how the Irish were basically treated like less than dirt when they first arrived to the United States. Just look up any political cartoon from civil war times and you’ll see them depicted as monkeys and leprechauns. But no, because they have pale skin, it doesn’t count. It’s a double standard.
        The United States is supposed to be a melting pot, but this campaign serves to divide, not bring people together.
        I’m very sorry that people feel this way, but come on now… It’s possible to find fault in ANY Halloween costume out there: don’t be a witch because the Pagans will get upset, don’t be a demon or angel because the Christians will get upset, don’t be a tiger because they’re an endangered species so ypu can’t make light of their existence.
        Does anybody honestly think that a little girl dressing up in a Kimono or as an Indian princess is doing it because she is racist? They do it because there is something that appeals to them about it. Something that maybe they weren’t lucky enough to be born with as apart of their heritage, but that for one night they can embody and become. That’s all. Stop trying to make it into something offensive and dirty.
        I can only hope that this year I’ll see someone, of any race, dressing up as something from my Latino culture, whether it’s it stereotypical or not because that means that something from my culture has intrigued them. Whether it’s comical or not, it’s sparked an interest in them. Nothing wrong with that…
        Anyways, once again, HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!!! :)

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          I totally agree with you, but you said it better than I could! How is it cool to dress up as an Irish stereotype, and act in an exaggerated drunken fashion as I have seen so many people do!! Yeah, we’re white, but so what, as a people we’ve traditionally been subjected to a huge amount of racism, eg: back in day you would see signs outside businesses that said “no blacks, no Irish…” so you know, people shouldnt assume that racism is confined to certain groups of people. To be honest, im not really offended by the Irish one, sure it annoys me sometimes when we’re the butt of jokes etc but then again ive other things to be worrying about so I dont give it too much thought! In fact I could say the same for most other people here…that we as a country, seem to have the ability to laugh about those old stereotypes. I guess im just saying that yes, some costumes can be offensive, but perhaps dont be so quick to judge the person wearing it, maybe they have no idea they’re being offensive…case in point, lots of people on St Patricks day! :)

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            i definitely agree that the people who wear these costumes generally have no idea they are offending people. that’s what this campaign is about — just letting people know that it DOES offend some people. At the end of the day it’s a free country and everyone will wear what they wanna wear.

            at the beginning of the century, certain stereotypes were used to keep Irish people down and perpetuate racism and oppression. it would’ve been offensive to dress as a drunk Irish person back then.

            But racism is fluid over time. To the best of my knowledge, Irish people are no longer systemically discriminated against as “less than” other white people in the US, and decades of intermarriage have made it more difficult for people to even recognize a Jewish person (like me!) or an Irish person (like you!) by sight (both groups that were incredibly oppressed and considered a separate “race” for much of the 20th century but not as much now).

            So now, a white american dressing as a drunk Irishman wouldn’t be trivializing the culture of the people they oppress because they aren’t oppressing Irish people any more. The dynamic is radically different when both cultures are on a level playing field w/r/t power.

            Is it tacky to dress as a drunk irish person? Yes. Is it discriminatory? Yes. Is it offensive to Irish people? Yes. But it’s not the kind of racism that those posters are talking about.

            These stereotypes are perpetuated because they reinforce the american hierarchy — arabs are evil, mexicans are silly and comical, asians are submissive, black people are thugs, native americans are kooky. That’s how people justify institutionalized racism.

            Is it racist to dress as a redneck for Halloween? No. But it’s remarkably classist.. Much like people using stereotypes about black people being thugs to justify re-enforcing systemic racism against black people and treating them as “less than,” using stereotypes against poor white people (for example, even calling them “rednecks” or “white trash” to begin with) makes wealthy white people feel okay about ignoring those groups and blaming poor people of all races for their own circumstances rather than looking at how difficult it is to extract oneself from a legacy of poverty. They do this by reinforcing the idea that these people are bawdy, stupid, obnoxious, “trashy” and violent. So dressing that way for Halloween is classist. But it’s not racist.

            On a macro level these ideas inform things like education policy, which is remarkably unequal and could be fixed by a more democratic distribution of tax dollars.

            Does that make sense?

            POWER AND PRIVILEGE ARE INTEGRAL ASPECTS OF RACISM

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            Actually in the UK its not a level playing field for Irish people. Just like its not a level playing field for Eastern Europeans.

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            Exactly. Racism is fluid. By your account, in the UK it would be racist to dress up as a drunk irishperson, but that’s not necessarily the case in America.

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            Most groups of Eastern Europeans in the UK have amongst the highest levels of employment of any identified set of ethnic groups. Well, other than the Roma.

            Indeed the spectacular success in terms of both assimilation and economics of the recent large surge of Polish, Czech and Slovak immigration into the UK is truly a thumb-in-the-eye to the BNP (who are, for the benefit of non-UK folks, a British neo-fascist party) who always characterize immigrants as sponging unemployed welfare tourist parasites.

            Oh and as just about every party I go to is full of boozed up London Irish (I am Irish and Norman (the name is a bit of a giveaway) myself if genetics actually matter to you… not so much to me I must confess), I am not sure anyone would even notice anyone “dressed up as a drunken Irish person” :-P

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            @Perry.

            Yes they have high levels of employment. A lot of the hatred that goes their way is about how they “steal jobs.” Having a job is not the only measure of equality in a society. I mean are you seriously also going to claim that the Roma aren’t oppressed? Because they get things like bricks through the window for trying to move to mixed neighbourhoods and gypsy was a favorite slur where I grew up. See also other examples in the comments. Being called dirty and other things and treated like you are less because of where you come from is definitely a form of oppression. I’m also fairly sure that a lot of those jobs are menial ones and many of the people who are willing to employ an Eastern European for them wouldn’t be willing to give them “high status” jobs in their firms.

            Also I am not really sure what your point about the Irish is there. Unless its that you don’t experience prejudice about it or don’t care when you do and so don’t mind if people want to engage in stereotypes. Which is nice for you.

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            Well it is certainly true that Roma are not well liked, and to be honest it is not hard to see why… not that I am justifying group hatreds but to say most Roma communities are not all that interested in assimilation is pretty hard to dispute when you compare the experiences of other Eastern European.

            However I would be surprised if Roma are more than 2% of the Eastern European population in the UK (with the great majority being Polish and most of the rest being Czech or Slovak). And as for employment profiles… well I know a lot, and I really do mean *a lot* of Eastern Europeans in management jobs… My local bank manager is Hungarian, I know a Slovak who is a Lloyds Name, as far as I would tell damn near the entire middle management in the adverting agency I used to work with are either Eastern European or Baltic… hardly a scientific survey I grant you, but I find it hard to see Eastern Europeans in the UK as am oppressed group (hell, my partner is Slovak).

            “Also I am not really sure what your point about the Irish is there. Unless its that you don’t experience prejudice about it or don’t care when you do and so don’t mind if people want to engage in stereotypes. Which is nice for you.”

            My point is a know even more Irish people than Eastern Europeans and I am part Irish myself… and I just cannot summon up a farthing of annoyance if people want to dress up as Drunken Irish Folk at Halloween (that said, I am not really sure how a pasty faced Drunken English person actually makes themselves distinguishable from a pasty faced Drunken Irish Person).

            But I guess in order to not offend anyone (and whilst I rarely go out of my way to offend, I also rarely go out of my want not to) my Halloween costumes should be limited to White Colonial Oppressor outfits… which *would* be kind of funny I suppose.

            Do I think it can be distasteful to poke fun ethnic stereotypes? Sure, of course it can, I accept that. But on the overall scale of things that outrage me, ethnic Halloween outfits barely register compared to oh so many more important reasons to get annoyed. Must be the insensitive circles I move in (and they are pretty damn 2 Tone) but I have yet to see anyone get bent out of shape over someone’s outfit at a party in London :-)

            But on the topic of Halloween…

            I have a question for folks in the USA: I realise Halloween is a Big Thing there (whereas Fifth of November is vastly more important in England), but to be honest at every Halloween party I have ever been to 90% of people dress up as ghouls, vampires, ghosts or Jenny Greenteeth, rather than treating All Hallows Eve is a generic fancy dress party… but obviously things are a bit different on the other side of the Puddle. Has this always been the case in the USA that the whole supernatural emphasis is not that big a feature? Just curious.

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            I find it unbelieveable that people actually do this shit (come up to you in the street and say these things or follow that other poster shouting Pochahantes). What the hell is wrong with people that they think this is OK? I really don’t see what is so hard to get about this campaign. Dressing up as a racial/ethnic stereotype = not OK. Why is this hard?

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            Seconding this like a mother fucker, seriously. SHAKING. MY. HEAD. I can’t even…I’d engage in discussions but I don’t have enough spoons right now to deal with this.

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            I assume from what you’ve written that oppression of racial minorities is quite a big problem in the States?…which I must admit is not something I know anything about. If the people doing the oppressing are the ones who openly mock the people they’re oppressing, then I understand why that would upset people more. I guess it just pissed me off when reading the comments when people were saying…oh it doesnt really matter if you mock Irish people or certain European cultures etc, because while it’s not as bad as mocking an actual oppressed minority, it does matter and it’s still something people should give a 2nd thought to, and they should possibly just reconsider entirely!

            I think that now certain stereotypes, such as the drunk Irish person, are not so much offensive, but more annoying….(well in my opinion) I mean really, I hear jokes about that sort of thing a lot on television, it’s getting old at this stage! I digress, I suppose the situation in the States as regards oppression of minorities is quite different to what it is here and elsewhere and hence that’s probably why some people are misunderstanding each other and arguing in the comments etc. Again, I dont know, im just guessing!

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            I’ve scrolled past this comment a couple times but I have to ask, where the hell do you live that there’s no racism.

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            Riese,

            To me it’s hugely offensive to dress up as a drunk Irish person in America. Where you see the Irish achieving whiteness (and if this isn’t what you meant please let me know, since I certainly don’t want to speak for you) I see two things: one, Irish people knowingly selling out to get a couple rungs up the ladder, people who were basically disowned as Irish for those actions, and Irish people who have had the culture so erased and assimilated through forced sterilization, breeding, and so on that the only echo of what my father raised me with that I see outside of my home are fat idiotic leprechauns parading drunkenly and slurring in fake Irish accents about how everyone ought to color their beer green for St. Paddy’s. I acknowledge that people tend to assign me a certain dose of white privilege based on how I look (despite family members who were of color, which makes me the yellowest Irish person you’ve ever met, and I have been called everything from Native American to half Japanese) some people sort me in to whiteness no matter what. That privilege for me comes at too high a price. That’s why I do my best to change the inequalities I see, because I feel I had my culture taken from me forcibly.

            That aside, I do not get why people won’t at least see this campaign as a reminder to check themselves. Sure, some may not be offended and I don’t think any autostraddle member wants to silence those people of color who have come in to the discussion to say just that. But given the painful and raw history inherent in a lot of these portrayals, AT LEAST think first.

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            Right, that’s why I said that dressing as a drunk Irish person was offensive and discriminatory in my comment. I just said it wasn’t racist. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a challenge to my point or an addition to it, but I don’t see where we disagree.

            Anyhow, that’s really interesting about your experience, I’ve never heard that perspective before from any Irish people I’ve known, thank you for sharing it.

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            Riese,

            I guess it feels pretty damn awful to me. Whether that’s racist I don’t know. Irish racism is an interesting thing and it’s not always based on looks, so that makes it even more complicated. At the least I think of it as cultural appropriation. An example: I have a black friend who LOVES Ireland. God, does she love it. Hell in some ways she’s a better Irish person than me, having been able to visit the homeland and all. To me if she wants to join Irishness, me with my tiny single voice is shouting, yay! Awesome! I don’t care what she looks like. I wonder if that isn’t a part of it, that it’s based less on looks. (unless you have stereotypical Irish features; that can still play in)Irish Travelers, interestingly, are legally their own ethnic group and yet look as white as anything. So complex! Fascinating, too. Anyway I know that thought is kind of rambly but the point is that ultimately I feel it’s a certain kind of ‘racism’ though the word is not the best summation. I don’t think it’s the same as other experiences. No one group’s experiences are the same as another’s. But I hope that since Irish, Blacks, Asians, Polynesians, everything in America have at some point known or still know that similar pain, we can start making room for each other on that basis.

            You’re welcome. I’m trying my hardest to be honest and retain my culture while respecting and learning from other people’s ways and beliefs. (also I think religion is a very interesting topic and in some belief systems transcends some racial tensions, since it’s seen as the great uniting force, though that’s a whole other post) Your site is rad and always gives me so much to think about.

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            Assuming we are talking about ‘white trash’ and ‘rednecks’ as portrayed by the media, what if I were to dress up as a black gang member from (for example) Los Angeles, where ‘black gang member’ is defined by the portayal by the media.

            Not all black people are gang members.
            Not all black people live in areas where gangs proliferate.
            Not all black people belong to one specific ‘class’ of people.
            Some black people are poor AND/OR are considered lower class.
            Some black people are well off, but not rich AND/OR are considered middle class
            Some black people are rich AND/OR are considered upper class.

            1. If I dress up as a black gang member (black makeup not included) am I being racist or classist?

            2. If I dress up as ‘white trash’ or as a ‘redneck’ (words that inherently stereotype) am I being racist or classist?

            The answer to number (2) here seems to have been that this is not racist, just classist.

            The answer to number (1) here must therefore be the same. Classist.

            Unless……..does any of you think that me wearing a stereotypical, straight-from-a-parody-of-a-rap-video black gangster outfit is in any way racist? That is to say, does it stereotype a race and it is insensitive and insulting?

            If so, then (2) dressing as ‘white trash’ or a redneck must also be racist.

            There is no such thing as ‘black trash’ is there? Am I missing something?

            If the phrase was ‘lower class trash’ or ‘unwealthy people trash’ then dressing as such would be classist.

            Add the word ‘white’ and you have racism.

            Lastly:
            QUALIFIYING A TERM OR A BEHAVIOUR AS RACIST is absolutely not dependent on its IMPACT on the racial group in question

            Either something is racist or it isn’t.

            Your logic is supremely flawed.

            You say:
            “By [other user's] account, in the UK it would be offensive to dress up as a drunk Irish person, but that’s not necessarily the case in America.”

            You don’t find racism and extreme stereotyping in the red-bearded, leprechaun-looking drunk Irish person cliche wheeled out ever St. Patrick’s day all over America? Isn’t clothing oneself as such akin to wearing a stereotypical version of the historical costume/appearance of any other country like Japan, China and Mexico?

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            A thought I just had.

            This campaign has a slogan “We’re a culture, not a costume” so the problem this campaign aims to highlight is not racism per se, but racism THROUGH cultural stereotypes.

            Is not ‘drunken Irishman’ and all its negative connotations a cultural stereotype as offensive as the sombrero’d donkey rider, the dressed-as-an-Arab suicide bomber or the stereotype of the Asian woman as a meek, traditionally dressed Geisha?

            Is not the ENTIRE POINT of this campaign to not see culture as costume????

            SO AREN’T ALL COSTUMES BASED ON A STEREOTYPE OF A CULTURE WRONG?

            Why is Irish culture the exception!???????????

            There are people on this website who are viruently anti-white and NONE of you can see it because the media has brainwashed you into thinking that anytime someone says there is anti-white sentiments, or anti-white bias that such a person must be a fringe-dwelling, conspiracy-theory-loving, crazed, anti-minority imbecile and that the opinions of said person must suddenly become useless, racist nonsense.

            This is wrong.
            This is not the truth.
            This is not fair.
            This is AGAINST the very principles by which those who are against racism, bigotry and xenophibia run their lives.
            Racism in ALL ITS FORMS against ALL PEOPLES is wrong.

            Including white people.
            Including racism by cultural appropriation of Irish people, Scottish people, Italian people etc.

            I DARE YOU ALL to mentally switch ‘white’ and ‘black’ (or other terms like European, African etc) in comments, articles, magazines, newspapers, blogs and in TV shows and films and see if you feel the same way about things when they are said about black people.

            I recently saw a video of a white visiting University professor in the USA saying that the only solution is to ‘exterminate black people’.

            DO YOU AGREE THAT IS HATEFUL, DISGUSTING AND RACIST?

            How about when I tell you it was actually a black man saying the only solution is to ‘exterminate white people’.

            Suddenly you don’t feel as shocked?

            ASK YOURSELF WHY.
            WHY ARE WE TRAINED TO SEE HATE OF WHITE PEOPLE AS ACCEPTABLE.

            THINK.

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            …and before anyone jumps on the fact of me mentioning a video I have already linked to above as some sort of attempt to cherry-pick examples, I will say that I am almost shaking with sadness and anger and I can’t think straight and that was the only example I had at the top of my mind, having, as I said, mentioned it earlier.

            No more and no less than that.

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          “By the same token, just because certain people are bothered by it, does that mean that their opinion is more important than those who are not bothered by it?”

          Er, yes, sort of.

          Okay well, not really. Not *more* important. But you saying you’re NOT bothered by something = you don’t care if it happens or not. Someone saying they ARE bothered by something = they care if it happens. Since you don’t mind, maybe it’s okay for it stop happening.

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          Some of us people of colour still experience racism. Where I live it’s not uncommon to be sexually harassed/assaulted with racist slurs and rape threats, or to be yelled at in the street “burn and die/burn native burn, go back to your reservation”. There are still extremely high rates of suicide and sexual violence against First Nations women, and while eugenics is no longer an officially state sponsored policy there are still instances of forced sterilization and denial of basic resources, such as drinkable water, to many First Nations communities. When stereotypes like these costumes are used to support that, that’s not ok.

          Those people of colour who are comfortable with racist jokes have a right to have their own opinions and make their voices heard, but it doesn’t invalidate the rest of us speaking out. Most Anishinaabek and Haudenosaunee I know may take Halloween with a sense of humor, but ultimately I don’t know any of them who wouldn’t be happy to see the end of non-indigenous people playing NDN.

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          “By the same token, just because certain people are bothered by it, does that mean that their opinion is more important than those who are not bothered by it?”

          I don’t think anyone is saying that their opinion is more important. But people don’t usually agitate for issues they don’t care about, as you claim not to care about this. So those who DO care get heard.

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            I see what you are saying, but like I said, it is important that my opinion along with others who feel the same way are heard. I know that sounds pompous, but I just mean that it is important because we represent “the other side” of the debate. When people look at these posters, they are not thinking that “oh, the person in the poster is offended,” they are thinking “oh, all minorities are offended by those costumes, ” but that’s not the case. These posters are basically saying, “you’re not part of my heritage so don’t you dare try to depict it,” but who are they to put this out there as if they speak for the entire culture? And the fact that there is no Caucasian poster with a person holding up a picture, just makes it seem like “it’s all us minorities against you white people.” Whether that was the intention or not, that’s how it come off. This serves only to divide people, not unite them.
            Look, there is a ton of racism still out there (I’ve experienced it myself before with people of EVERY race), but not EVERYTHING is about racism. These posters are dealing with Halloween costumes. If a child, for example, is watching the Disney movie Mulan or Pocahontas and decides that she’d like to dress up as her for Halloween, that’s not being racist! That means that there was something either cool or beautiful or whatever about the character that the child took a liking too and that’s why they want to portray them. I think that’s wonderful, not demeaning. Anyways, I guess people will just have to agree to disagree on the issue :/
            But please people, if you see a child dressed up in something relating to any of your individual cultures this Halloween, don’t be so quick to judge. You need to ask yourself: is that child really being offensive, or am I just quick to take offense?
            Well, for the third and hopefully last time… HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE :P

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            “You need to ask yourself: is that child really being offensive, or am I just quick to take offense?”

            esto me qusta eee kreo k si tienes razon ma’ pero esas pendejas personas noooo podran distiqir en tre lo dos jiji jaja!!!

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            Re: the child example – I don’t take offense at the child, who probably doesn’t know any better. I take offense at the parents. In this case, all the examples in these photos are of adults – people old enough to know better – dressed in these costumes.

            Re: the rest of your comment – but why is it so important that the other side “get a say”? As Smoops said so eloquently above, you claim not to care about this issue. So why would it bother you so much if the people who ARE offended got their way and less people wore these costumes? We’re not talking about passing legislation here to ban offensive costumes, simply educating people that some people consider those costumes offensive. So for example – whether or not all Asian people agree that geisha costumes are offensive, some do, and I would prefer to dress as something else rather than risking offending those people.

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          I just want to say I appreciate your post Angie. And as an American, I’ve noticed we have very tense and sensitive views of race compared to other countries. I think you’re spot on and I appreciate the perspective. Well-stated and clear but polite! I also have to admit your admission that as a Central American you don’t care if someone dresses up as Chiquita Banana made me laugh. :)

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            Yeah, this is also because unlike in a lot of other countries, (some) Americans actually CARE about racism. Everywhere I have been in Europe (for example) has been much worse regarding racism/antisemitism.

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            Wow, I don’t even know what to say to that. You’ve basically implied that I think racism is no big deal. That offends me a hell of a lot more than a costume ever could… I can’t even. So many things wrong with this comment.

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            Thanks :) I have enough faith in humanity to give people the benefit of the doubt, and understand that their costumes were most likely chose for aesthetic reasons, rather than to be mean or hateful.
            Besides… I would LOVE to see a bunch of little multi-cultural Chiquita Bananas running around on Halloween! I think that would be just too freaking cute lol :D

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          I feel like on this site, most of the people speaking about how wrong this is for the “offended minorities” are in fact privileged white people themselves who have never experienced oppression. How could you gauge, honestly then, that those minorities truly find these costumes racist and offensive, especially when many of the ethnic people in these comments are refuting what is written in this article? Is your word more important or truthful than that of the people that are actually being “oppressed” by these costumes? Do you speak for me? Is this a subconscious manifestation of your white privilege to tell me that I need to be offended or else?

          When I see people wearing my ethnic costumes, I feel proud because it means they found something they wanted to gain, something they liked about my culture. Isn’t that what America being a mixing pot is all about? This issue has really been blown out of proportion.

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            The *author of this post* talks specifically and at length about her experiences being objectified as an Asian woman, which inform why she supports this campaign. Does that just not matter to you?

            The trend that has arisen in this thread of telling people what they *should* be feeling and why they should just Get Over It Already, Amirite?! is dismally depressing.

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            Thank you!!! You’ve so very eloquently said EXACTLY the point I’ve been trying to get across in my feeble ramblings on here. I know most people who are in favor of this campaign are really are really and truly coming from a place of “good,” but there are sooo many commentors on here that don’t realize how condescending their “courtesy” comes across! It’s like “oh, I’m a nice, understanding person and that’s why I go out of my way not to offend YOU minorities… ” We are all human; you shouldn’t have to tip toe around us! Speak your minds, and dress up however the hell you want on Halloween, if somebody takes offense, then YES, they need to get over it! Besides, we’re not stupid… We can tell the difference between a RACIST who is doing it out of hate and somebody who just happened to like the costume!
            Another poster mentioned that the Irish depiction isn’t as bad as the ones in these posters because in this day and age, the playing field is more level now. But how do you think it came to be this way? Through hard work and overcoming, not by whining about how oppressed they were or are and demanding that people cater to their feelings. Only by letting go and slowing learning to stop being offended by such stereotypes and depictions can we as minorities ever hope to make progress and then eventually, with time, these “stereotypes” won’t carry the weight that they apparently do now.
            The point is, I think minorities in any sense, are all striving towards a common goal: equality. This campaign is saying the exact opposite: we don’t want to be equal, we want special treatment! And the rest of the people (I’ll just say it: CAUCASIANS, since it’s so blantantly obvious that’s who these ads are geared towards) aren’t helping any by enabling this crap. These posters do make minorities seem “whiny” and “overly sensitive” and it makes the “Caucasians” feeding into it seem pretentious; plus, this campaign makes it seem like it’s us oppressed minorities vs. those evil “whites”, and that’s just widening the racial gap even more!

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            Depends who you are and where you’re coming from. Speaking for myself, I find these stereotypes deeply offensive. And no, I am not ‘whiny’.

            I think it’s great that you are not hurt or offended by these stereotypes. But you can’t speak for all of us. Since you are not offended, but you know that others are, why not let it stand instead of encouraging actions which will further hurt and upset those who have already been hurt? Such as suggesting that we are ‘whiny’.

            Your experience is not my experience. I am happy for you that you have grown up in an easier world than mine was. But I ask you to retain some vestiges of empathy for those who did not. And who still do not.

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    so why is there no white dude with a “red-neck” costume? its not ok to stereotype an asian or a mexican, but white stereotypes are ok? this campaign is inherently racist.

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    im not familiar with halloween because we dont celebrate it in greece (we celebrate carnvival in february) and i dont quite get it.. basically i thought that for halloween youre supposed to be scary? or not? because from this article and some comments it sounds as if you are mostly dressing up to make fun of others -be it a race or a person- and feel better about yourselves.
    for the carnival most of the costumes have to do with fantasy, colours, wordplay and making fun of the current political situation. of course you always have the occasional “straight” guy dressed up as a woman, because this is the only chance he has to do drag while presenting it as a joke, but i cant think of many other costumes with the purpose of being offensive to someone..
    my favourite costume is getting dressed up as a cowboy but not as an offense to americans (because for me the american stereotype is a cowboy)and a couple of years ago i dressed up as japanese but just because its cool.
    so basically, i wouldnt be offended if someone dressed up as cleopatra because she is a symbol for beauty and intelligence but i would be offended if someone dressed up as the greek debt or something.
    anyway, just a non-american thought.

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      I think originally the costumes were supposed to be ‘scary’, but over time Halloween’s evolved into an excuse to get to wear any costume–animals and fictional characters are popular, especially for younger kids. For example, as a kid, I was a princess, Little Bo Peep (a shepherdess, basically), and the pink Power Ranger. My brother was the green Power Ranger and a dinosaur. If the parents don’t know any better, the kids might wind up dressing as racially insensitive stereotypes (blackface as Baron Samedi, variations on the terrible Indian Princess costume) because the parents are either unaware or uncaring of the hurtful offense they’re perpetuating.

      Costumes frequently get very lazy or turn into silly jokes as people get older–I know someone who pinned a bunch of sponges to a dress and said they were ‘self-absorbed’. The storebought ones are cheaply made and if they’re marketed towards women, they’re going to show a lot of skin and be really sexist inaccurate messes like ‘Sexy Nurse’ or ‘Sexy Police Officer’.

      The racist outfits are the laziest of all because they’re a collection of castoffs and uncritical backwards thinking slapped together to resemble a stereotypical vision of marginalized people. ‘Dressing up as Japanese’ is hurtful to Japanese people because it’s equating something with cultural relevance to them as being on the level with a silly costume or a joke. I’ve met several people who would think that dressing up as Greek debt would be hilarious because it’s not something close to them and it would be a simple costume for them to pull off with scraps, castoffs, and whatever stereotypes they have in mind.

      I hope this was helpful.

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    How about people just have a little more imagination when it comes to their costumes? Ooh, a sombrero, how freaking original. One year I went as a house, another year I went as a peacock and another year I went as a giant book. This is like the only opportunity we get to be really creative and exciting with our costumes and nobody can think of anything better than racial stereotypes and offensive outfits? Jerks need to get over themselves, I think.

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    Eh, I am now pretty sure there is one person having an early Halloween costume party on this post.

    Look, if I give you all my Halloween candy, will you just go away? We can have an intelligent discussion, and you will have candy. Everyone wins.

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    Amber, The black person is actually white she painted herself black but she is being a character from true blood(Tara) and that particular character is black so i really don’t see why that is offensive unless they think white people aren’t allowed to dress as black characters. I do agree that all of these photos are of white people dressing as people from different cultures and they really need to show other races dressing as the “offensive” costumes cause it does give a message that white are the only racists out there. Halloween is the on day a year that someone could be anything they want to be they are meant to have fun not offend people have never had a problem with it until now we all need to get over it and have fun.

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      I didn’t look at the costume long enough to see that the person is actually white (I apologize) but from the other comments I’ve read that person was actually dressed as lil’ wayne. Not as a “black gang member” or someone from a TV show, as an actual person, who dresses that way that happens to be black. Kid Rock dresses similar should I be offended if someone dresses as him?

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      “unless they think white people aren’t allowed to dress as black characters”

      guys, do you really not understand the history of blackface in this country and why it’s so offensive? i’m giving you some homework right now. go read about it.

      obviously no one is saying “this isn’t allowed.” there are no laws against it. the costume police are not going to arrest you, so chill out.

      people are saying that this is offensive, it’s in bad taste, and that you should have a little respect and reconsider before you paint your whole body brown for halloween. okay?

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    Thought provoking article, Whit. When are people going to realise that it’s about oppression and stop making false analogies? If a person of colour dresses as a cowboy it’s not offensive because cowboys are not oppressed. White trash or redneck costumes are offensive because they are classist, but that’s a separate issue.

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    I heard about someone dressing as “lesbian moms” for halloween. I thought of this campaign immediately. I just know that’s not okay; it’s insensitive and disrespectful to make a costume, a farce out of one’s family and identity. Besides, lesbian moms don’t all look a certain way; yes, there are stereotypes just like with anything and everything, it seems, but I still found this costume distasteful.

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    Are most of the ignorant comments made by the same person or are there really that many clueless people in here. Sorry you can’t dress up in blackface/go as a geisha/native american anymore. Guess you’re just gonna have to be more creative.

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    ATTENTION AUTOSTRADDLE – THIS IS WHAT WE CALL “A TROLL.”
    -the editors

    I’m Scandinavian. If I presented the case to you that people not of my ethnic stock dressing up as vikings was deeply offensive, would you take me seriously? If I said it endorsed a bad stereotype of violent barbarism, or disrespected a proud and ancient culture, would you care?

    Well, likely not. Because I am “white”, and apparently not a “person of color”, so STARS and other so-called “anti-racist” groups don’t really give a damn about me do they?

    Whites: “Ok STARS, no more offensive costumes of Asians, Chicanos, Blacks and Arabs. BUT….that means no more offensive costumes of Irish, Germans, poor rural whites, Greeks, etc. Got it?”

    STARS: *crickets*

    Honestly. I don’t care if you’re Mexican and you want to dress as viking. Knock yourself out. I probably won’t dress as the token sombrero wearer riding a burro, that is tacky, but what about Zapata? Or Villa? They were heroes, people often like dressing like heroes on Halloween. Where do we draw the line? STARS may have honest intentions, but as far as I’m concerned they are advocating a soft form of fascism, calling out “thought crimes”.

    If some drunken fratboy white idiot wants to dress in black face, no one is likely going to stop him. Go ahead and let him be an idiot. Of course he’s offending some people, but just how are you going to stop the actions of offensive idiots? All of them?

    And please spare me the lectures, the finger-wagging lessons, the projections of white guilt, the far-fetched tales of “struggles against da white man’s hold on society”. I’ve known enough anti-racist organizations and sat through enough seminars and college lectures on so-called and largely exaggerated “white privilege” and “whiteness” to recognize the clear signs of hatred against normal every people of European descent. The sad reality is the “oppression” faced by non-white people in the US is nothing compared to other parts of the world, where being from a different ethnic groups means you will be shot to pieces or raped on sight.

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        ATTENTION AUTOSTRADDLE – THIS IS WHAT WE CALL “A TROLL.”
        -the editors

        PaperOFlowers, here in the States, the “struggles” of “people of color” often include special government-funded advocacy groups, affirmative action, etc. My co-worker, a Kurd from Iran, made that previous observation I stated. Of course people like you could care less about racism towards the decided “non-victims”(aka white people)that does occur in the states. Typical bleeding heart hypocrite

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          peter, check your privilege. as a white person, you (and i) benefit from institutionalized privilege that makes your whole life easier, in ways you probably don’t even notice.

          the existence of advocacy groups and affirmative action for people of color barely make a dent in that privilege.

          you don’t need an advocacy group, because the vast majority of media, politicians, corporations, and lobbyists are already advocating on your behalf.

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            ATTENTION AUTOSTRADDLE – THIS IS WHAT WE CALL “A TROLL.”
            -the editors

            SC, there is no “white privilege”. There is only brilliantly disguised anti-white bigotry masked in fancy academic terminology packaging that calls itself white privilege.

            It is truly tragic that you are brainwashed to this degree, to feel responsible for things you had no control of, to believe that you are evil. I pity you

            They’ve convinced you that every white person is the same, hence why you believe that the vast majority of media advocates on my behalf….without knowing my stance on media matters. That politicians advocate on my behalf…..when you don’t even know my politics. That corporations advocate on my behalf….when you don’t know my stance on corporations or consumerism as a whole.

            My friend, they’ve convinced you that stereotyping is wrong, except when it comes to white people. And that is something that you have nobody but yourself to blame for.

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      Um, google Neil Stonechild, Burnt Church, Dudley George, and the Picton murder trials, listen to what people have to say about how these cases connect to other similar cases broader patterns of racism and a history of genocide, then come back and tell me how people of colour in North America don’t get raped or murdered because of their race.

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      I think this is an interesting post Peter and I do agree with the viking analogy. The difference, of course, is that in the specific example you gave, vikings aren’t a group that we’ve raped their identity and oppressed, like, say Native Americans. (Note the controversy over the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, but not the Minnesota Vikings. Likely for this exact reason.) Still, I’m not entirely sure why an ancient Geisha costume should be offensive if dressing as a 1920s flapper isn’t.

      You lost me when you brought up affirmative action though. Slavery only ended 150 years ago. And things weren’t exactly peachy after it ended. Have years of white Europeans being able to enjoy education and accrued wealth at the expense of blacks while blacks got nothing, and then later saying, “OK. Let’s just make everything equal now, every man for himself” seems a bit unfair. I support the concept of affirmative action, though I retain concerns about its implementation. But that’s a whole separate discussion that has nothing to do with Halloween costumes!

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        “Still, I’m not entirely sure why an ancient Geisha costume should be offensive if dressing as a 1920s flapper isn’t.”

        Two reasons.
        – One is a racial stereotype; one is a costume from a historical period.
        – Baggage. Sexually available and submissive women are a huge and damaging stereotype about women in and from countries throughout Asia. Most geisha costumes aren’t informed by any actual historical knowledge or research and they aren’t respectful recreations. They’re jokes. People talk in peculiar and offensive accents and say things like “me love you longtime”. People in flapper costumes do the Charleston. That’s the difference.

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          But is it a racial stereotype? Maybe that’s where the disconnect happens… do people actually think all Asian women dress and live like geishas? That seems like a rather dated stereotype. Are Asians still an oppressed group in America? I can understand the terrorist costume offending a Muslim given the current tension between between the Middle East and the U.S., but is the geisha “stereotype” still even a stereotype? I mean, I do see your point, it’s probably not a flattering image of Asian women, but neither is a guido costume to Italians, but the campaign makes it pretty clear costumes depicting white people poorly aren’t the issue. As I’ve said in my other posts, I think hurtful stereotypes need to be the focus, and not race, meaning sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc. should be included in such a campaign as well. It’s not that I think people should wear racially insensitive costumes, it’s just that I think this campaign sucks.

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            “Are Asians still an oppressed group in America?”

            Did you actually read Whitney’s post?

            “do people actually think all Asian women dress and live like geishas?”

            Some people do, actually, and historically lots of people did. But the stereotype I was referring to – which I think I actually spelled out pretty clearly – was that Asian women are submissive and sexually available. Here is a very short clip from a very good movie about stereotypes and expectations about Asian women in New Zealand: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3ocmlEG5tM I would expect that the culture is similar in the US, from what I have read.

            “but the campaign makes it pretty clear costumes depicting white people poorly aren’t the issue. As I’ve said in my other posts, I think hurtful stereotypes need to be the focus, and not race, meaning sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc. should be included in such a campaign as well. It’s not that I think people should wear racially insensitive costumes, it’s just that I think this campaign sucks.”

            Can you not see how this is derailing? “This campaign shouldn’t be about racism! It should be about EVERYTHING.” This campaign picked one area to focus on. Campaigns are allowed to do that – campaigns should do that, because they have limited space, time and money to get their message across, so a simple message is more effective. If you want a campaign about classist stereotypes, *do it yourself*, please, and stop trying to say that people shouldn’t talk about racism without making sure they talk about EVERY OTHER FORM OF OPPRESSION AT THE SAME TIME. Intersectionality is important but nobody can talk about everything at once. Particularly not in a poster.

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    I gotta say, after reading many of the other posts here, I’m a little saddened by many of them.

    A bunch of these posts say something along the lines of “white people deserve racism since they aren’t a prosecuted minority.” Or that since white people are a “power majority” that its fine…

    Do you not understand the double standard you’re employing, and how harmful it is to ending discrimination and racism?

    If you argue that racism is “okay” because the target is a white (or somehow bundled as one), how can you turn around and say its not okay for a different group? How can that help do anything but perpetuate racism? How can anyone really take you seriously?

    And yes, I understand that because white people are a power majority, they don’t take costumes making fun of white people to be oppressive or racist. And that is probably responsible for a lot of white people not taking “costumed racism” seriously, since they don’t see a difference between it and when people dress up to make fun of white people.

    But if people persist in allowing one type of racism while disallowing another type, it allows either side to effectively ignore the other… which won’t help anyways.

    This STARS campaign probably means a lot to a great many people from all minorities. Yet, I would venture a guess that there are also a great many people from minorities who don’t find what its protesting to be offensive. The only issue I have is that STARS seems to be saying that their viewpoint is the only valid viewpoint, while ignore those who are members of said cultures and don’t find it offensive. Which is fine.

    I worry sometimes that people are becoming too politically correct, and that being too politically correct is actually damaging to any cause, but I digress.

    All racism is bad. All discrimination is bad. All oppression is bad. All disenfranchisement is bad.

    To say that one group deserves it, no matter their cultural history or current state of power, is wrong.

    (Wall’O’Text crits for 100000000000000)

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      I don’t think anyone is saying that anti-white racism is okay – at least, if my comments are coming off that way, I apologize – but rather that it’s not a fair analogy to make. Because costumes that stereotype non-white ethnicities are adding to an already huge mountain of hate that racial minority groups in the United States have to experience.

      It’s the difference between making someone carry something heavy who is empty-handed versus making someone carry that thing if they’re already carrying a ton of other heavy things. It sucks either way, but it sucks way more for the second person. White people in the U.S. overall have a lot less to carry racism-wise.

      The reason we’re being so glib about it is because this happens in pretty much every racism discussion on the Internet. Wherever you have POC complaining about the stereotypes that are thrown into their face all the time, you’ll have a White person talking about how they weren’t offended the handful of times someone made a joke about drunken Irishmen around them. It’s really irritating to have the debunk the same entitlement and ignorance over and over again.

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        “It’s the difference between making someone carry something heavy who is empty-handed versus making someone carry that thing if they’re already carrying a ton of other heavy things. It sucks either way, but it sucks way more for the second person. White people in the U.S. overall have a lot less to carry racism-wise.”

        yes. i was thinking about metaphors like “pouring salt in an open wound” or “kicking you when you’re down” but they seemed slightly tacky, this one is much better.

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    OK, I’m going to put the moral arguments aside for a second. I just want someone to explain the thought process behind costumes like this.

    So you’ve got a costume idea. A lot of people say it upsets them. Maybe not everyone is upset by it, but this isn’t just a single angry stranger yelling random accusations at you, this is a number of rational people saying your costume offends them.

    Why the hell don’t you just come up with another costume idea? You’re making people feel like crap for no reason. This is pretty much the definition of being an asshole. Why do you continue with this course of action?

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    I really don’t understand why other people don’t want to avoid offending others…Hell, if I was doing something, and multiple rational people found it offensive on a pretty basic level, I’d cut it out.
    Last time I checked, there were a lot more Halloween costumes that don’t perpetuate stereotypes that will offend marginalized groups. It’s really NOT that difficult to figure out a different costume that won’t be offensive. If people are claiming they’re doing it to praise whatever culture they’re appropriating, how about they actually do research and whip up something actually authentic, and not something from in a plastic bag at a Halloween store made of crappy material? Might still be offensive (not a racially marginalized group, so I can’t speak as to whether that would or wouldn’t be appropriative in the same way), but at least the “admiration of culture” argument would hold more water.

    I just really do not understand the intense desire and love some people have for wanting to contribute to stereotypes and oppression. It seems to be a favorite pastime to people, and whenever anyone speaks up about it they whine and cry like they’re a five year old whose favorite toy has been taken away.

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      Yes! This! Like when white people go on and on about “why can’t I say the n-word if black people say it?” My answer: Your intense desire to say that word raises a lot of suspicion in me…and if you know it will hurt people why don’t you just not do it? Like, even if you can’t possibly understand the logic of why you shouldn’t do it, just don’t do it because it is far more controversy than it’s worth.

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      ATTENTION AUTOSTRADDLE: THIS IS A TROLL, DO NOT ENGAGE
      -the editors

      So, do you imply that white people alone partake in this habit of disrespecting another’s culture through costumes? That seems to be STARS message.

      One Halloween I saw an Asian guy dressed up as William Wallace with blue war paint. Where is the ad featuring a Scottish American guy holding that picture saying “This is not who I am and this is not ok”? Oh wait…..he’s white, I forgot!

      whites=perpetual evil doers

      everyone else=perpetual victims

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        oh man, i am so sad that anyone thinks the message behind this campaign was “all white people suck and all people of color are awesome” because i’d bet every single piece of candy i’m gonna eat this weekend that that was SO INCREDIBLY NOT THE POINT OF THE CAMPAIGN.

        all white people are not evil. even white people who wear racist costumes are not evil. they’re just doing something that happens to offend a lot of people of color.

        this campaign is a request, a reminder, saying “hey, when you dress up as an ethnic stereotype, it makes me feel bad, and it’d be great if you didn’t do it.” there are literally millions of inoffensive things you can dress up as for halloween. is it really that big of a deal to choose one of them instead of your “sexy geisha” costume?

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          ATTENTION AUTOSTRADDLE: THIS IS A TROLL

          How is a geisha costume anymore offensive to Asians than a French maid costume is offensive to Europeans?

          Is the girl in that ad even Japanese?

          Who are the ones thinking all Asian women are geishas? STARS?

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            I’m not sure why a dude is here and I don’t agree with him entirely, but reading Peter’s posts, I think he makes some good points. I hate making racism a competition and accusing minorities of being racist toward whites and I don’t support that. I will say the message seems to make a point of saying that anytime a white person dresses as someone with a non-white connotation, you may be treating a “culture” as a “costume” and thus maligning a racial minority. I don’t really think that’s true. But please see my other posts in the thread before accusing me of being racist, which someone surely will.

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            “I hate making racism a competition and accusing minorities of being racist toward whites and I don’t support that.”

            You don’t support accusing minorities of being racist towards white people?

            So……………..what should we do when minorities are being racist towards white people? Nothing?

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      I do agree with meagsicle. When in doubt, just do something non-offensive. If I know a word offends someone, I’ll generally avoid saying it. It’s like anything else, if clicking my pen annoys people around me, I’ll stop because it just doesn’t matter to me to do it. A Halloween costume ranks somewhere around pen-clicking in level of importance. I think people just don’t realize they are offending people. That or they are sort of dicks.

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    I don’t agree with this article, you are giving way too much importance to halloween when is just another dumb holiday.

    I’m not surprised though, specially coming from the U.S.

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    Since a lot of white people here seem to have trouble taking people of color’s opinion seriously, maybe they’ll listen if another white person (me) says it :

    SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND CHECK YOUR GODDAMN PRIVILEGE.

    It is NOT (y)our place to define what does and does not constitute racism, and it is NOT (y)our place to tell people of color what they have or have not the right to be legitimately offended about.

    If a person of color tells you that you are being racist or offensive, you just shut your mouth and open your ears and mind.
    I know that being told you’re being/doing something racist is hard to take – nowadays it’s a mark of shame and we like to think of ourselves as above it – but being the actual target of racism is probably way worse, so you should be willing to deal with it and change your ways even if you don’t fully understand what was wrong in the first place. Maybe THEY’re being overly PC, yes, but maybe YOU’re being racially insensitive because you have no idea what facing racism is like, and because you just can’t know which case it is you have to give it to them. If you don’t and believe that surely you know more about racism than a person of color do, you are being racist.

    You don’t get to whine because being called out on it hurts your precious feeeeeelings and you’d rather keep on unawarely perpetrating racism than admit that you fucked up and need to change – having privilege is one thing, but this, this is abusing it and being an asshole. Don’t be a fucking asshole.

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      ATTENTION AUTOSTRADDE: This is a troll
      -the editors

      I’ve read enough, listened enough and debated enough to know that the “white privilege” ideology fosters and encourages hatred towards white people. Don’t try to deny it.

      If you’re white, well it’s sad that you’ve succumbed to their brainwashing techniques of self-hate, but its not uncommon.

      If you truly believed in equality(which you don’t), then a “person of color” being racist towards a white person should also shut the fuck up and open their ears and listen. But your argument simply translates to “whites are evil and ‘people of color’ are victims”

      Continuing banging that tired drum. More of then than not people use unfounded accusations of racism as a weapon to shut down someone they disagree with. That is not a “white privilege”, you fool.

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        I don’t think you’ve actually “read enough and listened enough” if you can equate the following:

        1. Being white and recognizing how systemic privilege benefits you.

        2. Self-hatred.

        It actually sounds like you’re the one who’s been brainwashed. Just because people don’t celebrate you for being white doesn’t mean they hate you. You’ve just internalized white privilege to such a degree that you think you deserve it.

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          ATTENTION AUTOSTRADDE: This is a troll
          -the editors

          Yes SC, isn’t it sad that I won’t succumb to the academic-sounding bigotry being lobbied at me as enlightened thought? I’m glad to disappoint you

          I’ve read enough garbage by the likes of Noel Ignatiev, Tim Wise, Peggy MacIntosh to know what a bunk ideology “white privilege” it is.

          Feel free to make assumptions about my life based on far leftist theories(“systemic privilege”) without any basis in fact, the so-called “anti-racists” always do

          It’s also known as “stereotyping”

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    Whit, thank you for this article. And thanks to the students involved in STARS for this campaign.

    Anyone who doesn’t “get” why this campaign is important or why such costumes are offensive, here’s some food for thought: racism, like sexism and homophobia and pretty much any other kind of intolerance, comes in many forms–it’s not just about denying others’ rights or physically attacking them, there are other less obvious, more insidious, and cumulatively harmful ways in which racism works. Like dehumanizing people. Like reducing them to stereotypes to be appropriated and laughed at on Halloween, which makes it seem okay to appropriate and laugh at them any day of the year.

    And no, making fun of “white people stereotypes” like rednecks isn’t the same thing, because those people don’t have a history of being dehumanized by those stereotypes and they don’t have to STILL worry about not getting jobs, being assaulted, being singled out in an airport security line, facing everyday discrimination because of those stereotypes. It’s NOT the same thing.

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      OH GIMME A FREAKING BREAK! The redneck stereotype ISN’T dehumanizing stereotype? Implying that poor rural whites are inbred, drunk, uneducated slobs ISN’T a stereotype that has been around for hundreds of years?

      I’ve had enough of this hypocrisy

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        I was born and raised in the fucking South and I come from a family of rednecks. And yes, it is a longstanding stereotype. But it is NOT the same thing as stereotypes against groups who were, oh I dunno, KIDNAPPED AND SOLD INTO SLAVERY or the subjects of a centuries-long GENOCIDE, and who are still jailed, unemployed, or targeted by hate crimes at far higher rates than whites.

        Stop feeling so goddamn sorry for yourself and check your fucking privilege. And if you’re so tired of this “hypocrisy”, take your hate and ignorance somewhere else.

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          Also, the redneck stereotype is more about class and region than it is about race. It’s derailing to act like this campaign is invalid because it only focuses on one area of oppression instead of all of them.

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        It IS a stereotype and it IS offensive but it is a CLASSIST stereotype. Not a RACIST stereotype. Dude, if you want to make a bunch of posters about offensive classist costumes I will reblog the shit out of them, but stop bringing up the same irrelevant point over and over and over and over and over. NOBODY here thinks white trash costumes are okay, we’re just *not talking about that right now.*

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      I might’ve let that slide a year ago, that notion that making fun of white stereotypes isn’t the same because no white person has ever been an oppressed minority in the United States the way other races have been. But after living in the south, I can tell you, people who come from backgrounds we may joke as being “hickish” can feel every bit degraded and belittled as racial minorities can. They are mocked enough in society that I can sense the offense they take at little jokes or comments.

      I think the main problem here is that people are myopically focusing on race. I won’t rehash the post I just wrote which is not at the bottom of the comment thread, but I think the main point is not to dress as offensive stereotypes that mock for who they are. Whether you’re perpetuating a negative, mean and false stereotype of someone’s race, origin, sexual orientation, it’s probably kind of rude. And dressing as a hick who speaks with a drawl and is dumb would be just as bad as dressing up as a lesbian who has mullet, flannel and talks like a man. I don’t think that anything to do with minority race = automatically offensive, anything to do with white people = fine. It’s not about race, there’s no delineation to be made based on race alone.

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        Seriously, I just have to say that I am sick to death of being told I shouldn’t get offended about bad Irish stereotypes because well, you’re white now so lolz whatever, enjoy your privilege. Hey look, there’s a huge case of discrimination against Irish people still going on today. Not so much in America now, sure, but stepping on that legacy of oppression and genocide does nothing to further anyone’s status or cause, and I think I am allowed to be offended when someone dresses up as an Irish stereotype, too. My “whiteness” if you will is a complicated thing given Irish history and I don’t think it’s right to just paint me with that. (don’t get me started on how offensive I think St. Paddy’s is in this country) Given that I feel that way about my culture, often considered white despite having all of that horrible shit as a legacy, I can at least imagine what it must feel like to have yourself portrayed as a diamond toothed black minstrel show character. No one’s racial/class/what have you experience is going to be the same but I think we can all kind of figure that giving power to the worst aspects of a stereotype especially is the wrong thing to do.

        I think that because I believe maybe we should all try and respect each other and we should all try and have some cultural investment, because otherwise I feel like no one is ever going to bond. I also really hate it when someone dresses in bad drag for Halloween too, by the way, and yeah, as per someone else’s example I think it’s shitty when someone tries to be a big ol dyke stereotype or whatever as well. It’s the insidious shit that really gets to a person, you know? It’s like racism, sexism whatever can only exist if it’s really blatant but I think it’s the subtle stuff that’s really poisonous.

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    I thought these posters were incredibly powerful, if I’m honest I hadn’t given it much thought and I am still a little confused about how I feel about it…but the campaign has definetly got to me.

    Regardless, I will be a going as a tiger. Mrrooaawr.

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    I’m really curious as to where all these strange commenters found this article. Were they just googling ‘halloween costume racism’ for fun? Surely they’re not regular autostraddle readers!

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    To me, what matters here is intent. If the intent is to blatantly make fun of or trivialize a group of people of which you are not a part, that’s not okay.

    But what if the intent is to portray an actual person, or a historical character / cultural costume, because you are sincerely interested in or wanting to celebrate that person / character / culture?

    The International Department where I teach holds regular cultural celebration days, where exchange students from whichever country dress up in traditional costume, and ALL other students who attend are encouraged to do so as well, regardless of their ethnicity. Everyone has fun and nobody gets offended. I believe that some people choose their Halloween costumes in the same spirit, and personally, I see nothing wrong with that.

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      I agree with you there, to some degree. But part of the problem is that other people can’t always read your intent. You could be trying to honor Sacagawea or you could be just doing a generic Native American costume, but unless you have some clear indicator in the costume, people won’t know the difference and will see it as racially-insensitive either way. Intent only matters up to a point.

      It’s kind of like the issue with homophobic language. Yeah, it IS different when you’re saying “fag” or “so gay” among a group of queer or pro-queer friends as an in-joke, vs. among a group that is using it to disparage queer people. But if people outside the group are listening in, they don’t know which one you are, and they could get offended or, worse, think it means that prejudice is ok.

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        But the thing is, I don’t actually think people should have to monitor everything they say and do because it might possibly offend somebody who has read them wrong. I mean, I realize there is a balance to be struck here, and certain situations call for a higher degree of sensitivity. But in my opinion, those who point fingers at anyone wearing any kind of cultural costume and cry “racist” are just as guilty of underthinking and overreacting as those who carry on about how white people should be just as offended by people dressing up like cowboys or whatever.

        Here are a couple more scenarios: I know some people with small children who host international students in their home. The children become very attached to these visitors and, by extension, very interested in their culture. It is quite conceivable that one of these little white girls might want to dress up Japanese-style for Halloween in honour of her houseguest. Or, in my case, I have a good friend whose family comes from India. She has taken me to Indian weddings and dressed me up in saris and bindis, taught me how to dance to Hindi music and shared her pakora recipe with me. I have pictures of myself on Facebook dressed up for these events.

        In the case of both myself and the little girl in the above scenarios, we are celebrating the beauty and intricacy of cultures that are different from our own. If, as a society, we are coming to a point where this kind of cultural sharing and mutual appreciation is stifled because it just might cause offense to someone somewhere, to me that is a very sad thing.

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          I’m definitely not saying that you’re never allowed to explore other cultures or incorporate them into your life. But I do think that HOW you do it can go a long way toward whether it is going to be taken as appropriation or as respectful curiosity. The costumes above are clearly of the offensive, no-research-or-real-thought-about-the-culture variety. From what you’re saying, it sounds like your Sacagawea costume would be very different from the ones being described here.

          Also, I think little kids get a pass because they are little kids. If they try to be curious about the culture and they mess up and it looks more like a stereotype, they don’t necessarily know any better. I dressed up as Mulan when I was in third grade in a costume that definitely looked kind of geisha-girl-ish, but at age eight I didn’t know. I just knew I liked that movie and I thought Chinese culture was cool.

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    People are being massively, massively over sensitive about this. Like, seriously, it is halloween. It is going back to the very roots of halloween to dress up as someone that you are not.

    We see various costumes all the time such as old time gangsters, cowboys, train robbers, Marilyn Monroe look a likes, JFK and Nixon masks, Abe Lincoln… I have seen entire schools (which included children of ALL ethnicities) dress up as pilgrims, Betsy Ross, George Washington, etc. Does anyone call out “zomg racism” then, when a student who is asian/hispanic/african american/etc chooses to dress up as George Washington, since that school does not allow any kind of halloween costume, but instead chooses to focus on Americas founding fathers? No, of course not.

    Did I myself, a female who is part Native American, ever get called out for being “racist” when I chose to dress up as Betsy Ross, or Martha Washington, as a child? Or when I later dressed up as Laura Ingalls Wilder?, or as an evil, vampire cowgirl? Or how about when I chose to dress as a zombie saloon girl? Did anyone who was caucasian call me out for “zomg trying to be white and offending my culture!!111″ ? … No. Want to know why?
    BECAUSE IT WAS HALLOWEEN!!!!

    It is common for iconic figures of ALL countries/cultures (including not only racial and ethnic cultures, but also pop culture, ie suicide bombers) to be used as costumes. If that specific iconic figure was not POPULAR for one reason or another, then guess what.. it would NOT be used. There is a Reason for the popularity of certain figures out there, and most commonly it is a passing fade. However, some great iconic figures such as the Geisha (who, sadly, is fading out in their country) have withstood the test of time and are fully recognized as having unique qualities and they are appreciated for that. Who would not want to be a beautiful, graceful, talented Geisha, even if just for one night?

    I have seen little 100% caucasian girls in that old strict school of mine dress up as what everybody back then called “indians”… did or I, or my family get offended? NO.. because it was that halloween time of year for goodness sake. I used to laugh and pull their fake braids, and we would run around the school yard playing in our conservative costumes.

    I currently live in Mexico now, and you should see some of the get ups here that people use when they go around knocking on doors and singing/dancing for money. There are individuals here who attempt to “look white” on a daily basis, going so far as to white their faces out, and dying their hair. Should the caucasian side of me be offended when even more people do this on halloween?
    Good lord no. They are just trying to do their own thing, in their own way and choose to express themselves.
    Soon, I am moving on to yet another new country. Personally, I can not wait to see what new thing I encounter for halloween there.

    There is a massive, massive difference between dressing up as an iconic figure, and making (or acting out) actual racist comments/actions. Dressing up as a Native American figure is massively different than someone hanging an NA figurine then burning it. Do you see the difference?

  37. Pingback: Latest Black Hair Care Posters News | BlackHaircareBlog.info

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    Did anybody ever see that episode of South Park where people drive electric cars, but in order to drive the car they had to suck their own dicks? Some of you people remind me of those self dick sucking people.

    It’s great that some of you guys are so vehement against racism, it’s a welcome change from daily life. Please, stop sucking your own dicks though.

    Yeah

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    hey, good article! and this seems like a cool campaign. I’m surprised so many people are soooo defensive about it. its a good thing to show the human individual faces contrasted with the stereotype costume.

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    I think that most people here are raising some very good points, whether or not they agree with the article. Here are my two cents:

    I am half white/half black, and discussions about “white privilege” make me very uncomfortable. First off, I don’t like being told that I am less privileged than someone else because of the colour of my skin. That, to me, feels racist.

    Then again, I am not American. I did not grow up in a country with a fairly recent history of slavery. I can see how in the United States, the concept of “white privilege” makes sense to a certain extent. However, it must be understood that the whole world is not the United States.

    Though white people in the U.S. may have a certain measure of privilege, white people who aren’t American are often left out of this so-called privilege. For example,when she visited American, my Ukrainian was constantly harrassed by men who assumed she must be a prostitute. Her friend (also a young, Ukrainian female) is in an abusive relationship with an American businessman. He beats her every day. Her English is not so good and she has little money left, so it is hard for her to leave this situation. Where is her white privilege?

    That systemic racism against certain minority groups in certain countries exists must, of course, be acknowledged. But I feel like the blanket term “white privilege” erases and invalidates the struggles of so many white people who aren’t American, aren’t male, and aren’t rich.

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    “…I feel like the blanket term “white privilege” erases and invalidates the struggles of so many white people who aren’t American, aren’t male, and aren’t rich.”

    I don’t think it does, because privilege is not monolithic. A person can have relative privilege in one way, and still be under-privileged in another. For example, a relatively pale-skinned POC such as myself can unwittingly benefit to some extent from white privilege, when I am mistaken for Mediterranean rather than British and African in origin, and can be a victim of it in others, such as when I am mistaken for Arab/Muslim, or read correctly.

    Similarly, while I have had (overall) a significant amount of racism and sexism directed at me in my life, I am privileged in that I have never been so poor that I have been without enough food or fresh water. In that sense, I am incredibly privileged compared with a lot of the world’s people, including some white men, who are more privileged in the racism and sexism areas.

    I could go on. But my point is that recognising that one is privileged in one way does not infer that the same person is not underprivileged in another, and perhaps more basic, way.

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      Hey, I like your point that “A person can have relative privilege in one way, and still be under-privileged in another.” It’s true that your colour, class, and where you happen to be in the world all advantage and disadvantage you in different and multiple ways.

      Adding on to your point, I think it’s important to remember that a person who doesn’t have so-called white privilege can be privileged in many ways that a person who has white privilege isn’t. On a global scale, who is to say who is the most privileged? It is all so complicated. I don’t think the white American exists at the top of the privilege hierarchy, and to think so is dangerous. How many wars has America started under the guise of spreading privilege (“democracy,” “women’s rights,” etc.) to supposedly poor, underprivileged nations? And during colonisation, didn’t the missionaries think they were more privileged than the “poor African savages?”

      What i am saying is that it is dangerous to think of yourself as being overall more privileged than others. This type of thinking divides people into “us”-the privileged” and “them”-the under-privileged.” In addition, it is not empowering to people of colour to be constantly reminded of their lack of white privilege. It takes away their agency.

      A person should help another person not from a hierarchical position in which the helper feels more privileged than the helped, but rather from a place of empathy, recognising similarities rather than differences. However you look at it, the concept of “white privilege” is hierarchical. Empathy and hierarchy cannot co-exist. So let’s not help one another from a place of “privilege.” Let’s help eachother from a place of humanity – made up of empathy, and of course, love.

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        And adding on to my problem defining who has more “basic privileges:

        It must be recognised that the world is made up of so many amazingly beautiful cultures full of non-white people who are smart, empowered, courageous.

        What is privilege anyways? Is it not having to learn how to face hurdles and overcome obstacles because everything is easy for you? I have faced discrimination for being gay, being female, being of a certain race, and it has hurt. A lot. But ultimately, it has made me a strong person who thinks critically about things.This strenth has helped me in my personal relationships, my education, my work, etc. How dare anyone tell me I am at a disadvantage when I feel so beautiful, so proud, and so PRIVILEGED to be gay, female, and biracial!

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    Some of these pictures seem unreal. I mean, I find it hard to believe people are dumb enough to dress as what’s supposed to be a suicide bomber, or a man in sombrero on a donkey… WTF? And then I remember Prince Harry and his Nazi costume and it’s just… Oy. What’s WRONG with people?

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    How bout Dwayne Wade dressing up as Justin Timberlake?? Or are things only racist if white people do it?? I don’t care either way cause Im proud of my race & don’t whine when other races dress like me, talk like me, or call me racist names. Love cracker!! Every other races just needs to stop being a baby & get over it.

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    Hey, I’m coming from a position of privilege here (white upper-class girl) and while I understand enough about cultural appropriation to know it IS a problem, I don’t know enough to really fully understand why sometimes… Can anyone explain it to me? I’m kind of ill-informed about race (I keep meaning to read up but every time I’m at the bookstore I just end up being more Judith Butler.)

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    This is definitely the end of fun. What is fun for one person is never going to be fun for everyone. If you don’t like Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Carnival, Día de los Muertos, or any other cultural and religious celebration, just don’t celebrate it. If you don’t like Halloween, stay home and don’t dress up. Stop spoiling people’s fun calling everything racism. I’m from a visible minority and I enjoy using clothes I would only use in my country. I also love to see people trying to imitate me and looking silly. This campaign is the politically correct going too far. Get a life! This is not the way to make people appreciate your culture.

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    Totally support and understand where this is coming from power+prejudice=racism! yay women’s studies 101. Maybe some people are getting lost because its a US centric campaign? Like dressing up as a Catholic priest in Northern Ireland (where my family is) would be a big problem because of recent discrimination against Catholics. In the US, not so much, because on a broad, country wide level Catholics are not systematically discriminated against.

    At least I’m hoping that’s why there is so much trouble in the comments, otherwise this is fairly straightforward. But my sister is still dressing as a gypsy stereotype even though I’ve explained why it is in poor taste and racist, so I guess its just a concept that is unpalatable.

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    Whitney, you did a great job with this article.

    And really people, it’s not that hard to find a costume that isn’t offensive. And asking people not to wear costumes based off of offensive racial stereotypes is setting the bar for being a decent human pretty low.

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    This is pretty interesting. On one hand, part me of me says, for example, the terrorist costume is a terrorist and not meant to represent Muslims in any way and thus Muslims shouldn’t take it to mean the costume-wearer is mocking them. But then on the other hand, part of me thinks, what of someone made a “lesbian” costume of a woman with a mullet, flannel shirt, mustache, etc. that presenting lesbians as gross, manly creatures. I’d probably be offended.

    But what about when it’s not an offensive stereotype? What about if it’s a historical portrayal? As it was brought up in the Pretty Little Liars recap, Emily (resident lesbian hottie, woot woot) was dressed as a Native American. Whether she was meant to be Pocahontas or simply American Indian is unclear. But she just wore what we all learned as kids in books that Native Americans used to wear (basically). Is that offensive? What if someone dressed like an a colonial settler in America? Would that be offensive? I think the disagreement I have is the notion that, “We’re a culture, not a costume.” There are lots of cultures and ways of life. Is dressing up like one automatically offensive? I don’t think the white girl painting herself in brown paint and wearing a wifebeater and gold chain is appropriate, but I don’t think any costume that has implied race is wrong.

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      There is so much ignorance around different Native American cultures that a) the whole idea of dressing up as “a Native American” is about as sensible as dressing up as “a white person” and b) what people think of as respectful portrayals are generally informed by ignorance.

      It’s OK to dress up as a particular African-American. It’s not OK to wear blackface. And it’s not OK to dress as “a black guy” or “a Native American woman” because by definition to do so you have to perpetuate stereotypes. You have to reduce an entire culture down to some shit you pulled together at a thrift store. That’s not OK.

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      Also just want to say I think it’s a problem to equate terrorism with brown person in stereotypical Middle Eastern dress. I say that because I have an academic background in the study of violent crime, and plenty of terrorist acts are committed by Americans on Americans, and are often carried out by white people. We’ve just been massaged by politics etc so we don’t see that as the same. Not to mention that particular example just seems potentially offensive to like everyone ever. Jesus, why even choose it?

      (sorry to go on a long winded example here, but recently on Regretsy there was a purse that said something like “Murder is cool” or something. The site owner brought up the point of, imagine someone you loved had been murdered, and you walk in to a coffee shop and you see some kid with this thing. How would you feel? It strikes me as kind of similar. If you’re Middle Eastern you have every right to be offended by the half assed and negative portrayal, and if you were personally impacted by terrorist attacks, you have every right to be offended. No one wins)

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    I don’t want internet eggs thrown at me, but this campaign… Stereotypes will not stop existing just because you get rid of a Halloween costume nor will the vanish for taking away a support of them. They are just a personification of the stereotypes. If you find it offensive, talk to the person not about their Halloween costume (which no one takes seriously and wouldn’t take you seriously either), but about why they think what they do and let them know all people of a minority aren’t a certain way. No one looks at Halloween costumes as something that changes the way the world works. Those that bother to wear costumes like that in the first place won’t have their mind changed by some internet campaign.

    Saying all that, I do find all the costumes above offensive. I only find the geisha one somewhat offensive. If a person is wearing a geisha costume for historical reasons instead of representing the female of a race, there’s nothing wrong with it. Those that wear it to represent a period of time when it first came about or whatever will most likely not do the accent or anything offensive. They would also know that a geisha weren’t really prostitutes. It would be like me wearing a samurai outfit. I wouldn’t walk around swinging a sword and mocking hari kari. I would try to act like an actual samurai, not develop simple stereotypes. BUT most people are too, for lack of a better word, dumb to that so.. yeah.

    Sorry about this long-winded and possibly not well put comment. Just wanted to say that.

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      ‘Those that bother to wear costumes like that in the first place won’t have their mind changed by some internet campaign.’

      But those who are not actually racist and were planning to wear them in ignorance of the offense that could be caused, and of the damage they would be perpetuating, might change their minds. It might help them to reframe the issue.

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        Yeah, this is why I think this campaign is important. I mean, someone who is planning to wear blackface or dress in that “terrorist” costume probably doesn’t care, but there are a lot of people who don’t know that geisha costumes or “Native American” costumes are offensive, or don’t understand why. Those are the people I think this campaign is intended to reach, and I think it will reach a lot of them.

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      I understand your frustration but I would ask you not assume everyone who disagrees is white simply because they disagree. If that’s not what you’re doing well my bad, but I do notice that a lot on the Internet. (if you don’t agree with this issue, you must not be of color/trans/disabled whatever)

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    Okay, so I’ve been thinking on this a lot since it was posted and something was bothering me about the comments. I mean, a lot of things were bothering me, but there was something I couldn’t place. It just hit me — there are so many negative comments from unregistered users, and even assuming a high percentage of trolling, there’s still probably a fair amount of people who heard about this campaign, got mad, googled it, found their way here, and left comments on this article (and other ones all over the internet) about how everyone is just TOO SENSITIVE and OVERREACTING and all that. Seriously, you have done all of this reading and googling and commenting and getting angry just to defend your God-given right to wear a sombrero on Halloween and yet it’s everyone else who’s got their boyshorts in a twist? Okay, bro.

    (Also, apologies if anyone said all that already, but I had to start skimming comments after a while. I can’t even. I cannot even.)

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    Sometimes when people start applying the rationale to different groups (some of which don’t actually exist), it’s because don’t understand where the line is.

    Dressing as a puritan or a cowboy isn’t offensive because these aren’t marginalized groups. Dressing as a Native American is offensive because they are marginalized.

    And then they get defensive, like “If we’re all equal, why should THEY get special treatment?” Answer: because we’re not all equal. Marginalized groups do need special treatment to correct the marginalizing effect of stereotypes.

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    I know this argument has been going on a long time, but I wanted to weigh in with some stuff about the geisha debate.

    I’ll be up front, yes I am white and I’m aware I have white privilege. I do my best to think beyond that, but, like everyone, I screw up sometimes. So I apologise if anything in this post is unintentionally offensive. Oh, and I’m also British which may make a difference because racism isn’t identical here.

    In my opinion, from things I’ve observed, the stereotype of the submissive Asian woman has very little to do with geisha, at the absolute least, it has nothing to do with it consciously in the vast majority of men. The stereotype comes much more strongly from porn, the sex industry, and from beliefs about women’s traditional ‘place’ in other cultures.

    I’ll explain – I’m a sex worker, I offer escort services and I do webcam work. For a while, until I could no longer put up with certain idiots who used them, I used to spend a lot of time on ‘hobbyist’ forums, chatting to men who use the services of escorts. A lot of them are perfectly nice normal people, but you can’t really escape the fact that the vast majority are white and wealthy so there’s a lot of classist, sexist, racist BS that goes on. One of the common, recurring and frankly very boring and repetative discussions was the one about why asian escorts are ‘better’ than white ones.

    Yes, all the usual stereotypes got brought out, that they are more ‘submissive’ and ‘obedient’ (and if challenged, guys would insist that it wasn’t based on stereotype but their personal experiences, which sadly I think was probably true – I imagine many Asian women starting out in the sex industry are advised they will be more successful if they stick to stereotypes).

    However, I don’t believe this was to do with Geisha at all. When these discussions turned on to WHY Asian women were this way (and I should point out, the vast majority of escorts being discussed were Thai, and a few others Chinese, very very few were Japanese) the general belief was that their cultures had more rigid gender structures and that women would have been raised to be more obedient to men. I know very little about Thai or Chinese culture, and not much more about Japanese so I don’t know how much more sexism these women face to British women, and a lot of the women working in this country were born and raised here so it’s questionable how much of an effect their original culture would have especially if their family had been here for generations. But, that is the belief and the foundation for the racist fetishization for a lot of men.

    Similar applies to porn, the whole style of pornography is almost cartoonish, exagerrating everything to extremes, and that includes racial stereotyping. If men like Asian women and watch a lot of that type of porn, and they don’t understand that porn sex and real sex have very little in common, they may wind up with the impression that sex with Asian women is always going to have that type of power dynamic.

    I’ll say this as someone who works in, and loves, the sex industry – there are a lot of problems. Every issue of racism, sexism, homophobia – it seems like our tiny closed off world is a few decades behind. This is perpetuated by the clients, who expect it, and perpetuated further by providers, who assume they have to play into it to get work. It’s utterly depressing. This is my specialist area so I know about it, but I imagine similar bullshit is going on within other areas of the entertainment industry, audiences have certain expectations of Asian women’s roles in films, for example, and so writers, directors, actors, etc may be under pressure to show things a certain way.

    It’s a mess, basically, and I don’t know what the way forward is, but I don’t believe that Geisha costumes (at Halloween or otherwise) or a facination with Geisha culture and history has a whole lot to do with it.

    These days I generally try to come up with something a bit more unusual for a costume, but when I was in my late teens a friend and I had an interest in Geisha culture. Not, as far as I can see, as a racist thing, or a fetishization. We both started out reading Memoirs of a Geisha at the school book club, and from there did a lot of our own research because it caught our interest. I personally had a lot of respect for the way the women were so highly skilled in many areas, how much hard work it took to become a successful Geisha, and also for a culture that (although in many ways problematic precisely because of the submissive nature of Geisha) required more of women than just sexuality but that also acknowledged skill outside of that. So, yes, I’ll admit to at one point spending an evening with my friend trying to construct Geisha costumes, being as historically accurate as we could on our complete lack of budget.

    Was that racist? I personally don’t think so. It didn’t have anything to do with our views of Japanese or other Asian women at all, or on wider Japanese or Asian culture, purely on the world of the geisha and their clients. I’m sure a lot of people who throw on a ‘sexy Geisha’ costume (rediculous, by the way, a short tacky version of the kimono is much less attractive than an authentic costume, which are really beautiful and definitely still qualify as sexy!) put much less thought into is than my friend and I did. But I don’t believe that makes it racist either. It’s insensitive towards one particular profession and subculture, just as I cringe when I see stereotypical costumes that mock my profession, but it’s not about the race and I personally don’t believe it is a cause of racism and fetishization of Asian women.

    Sorry for TL;DR

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    HEY! IT’S FUCKING HALLOWEEN! JUST FUCKING RELAX!
    If some straight girl dressed up as a ‘lesbian’ in a “I Heart Vaginas” t-shirt and baggy jeans and a backwards hat and a wallet chain, maybe even a faux-hawk and rainbow dog tags—– I wouldn’t go running around pointing out the many, many ways that this doesn’t accurately portray lesbians, and how gay teens kill themselves for being bullied for their sexual orientation so you should be ashamed of yourself. Because while that all may be true, it has no relevance because it’s a fantastical and silly holiday.

    Just let it go- why all the commotion? It’s fucking Halloween, not “dress-up-in-the-most-accurate-portrayal-of-what-you-perceive-other-groups-of-people-to-be-like” If that was the case, I’d be pretty depressed that all the frivolity was taken out of the occasion.

    Of course, this is only my opinion. I actually am proud of the diversity of responses on this thread and people feeling they can actually speak their mind. Freedom of speech!! While I may disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it!
    Much love :)

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    Saying you have to dress up as someone from the same race and same culture as your own seems to promote racial division more than fight racism (and kind of takes the fun out of Halloween). Dressing up as a Samurai or Indian warrior isn’t racist, it’s usually done because you respect that culture.

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      I don’t think the message is that you can only dress up as someone of your own race, I think the message is that that you should never dress up as a caricature of an entire race, and if you do go as a specific character from another race you should be conscious that your depiction of that character isn’t based in racist stereotypes.

      Dressing up as an NDN warrior contributes to racism because most stereotypic or store bought NDN “warrior” costumes reflect more of the “Nobel savage” or “savage primitive” stereotypes than actual NDN warriors. Also things like eagle feathers and warbonnets are sacred objects with a history of being stolen or outlawed, so trivial appropriations of them are at best tasteless, and are likely to offend First Nations people who have had to fight long and hard for the right to wear them.

      The costume in the poster is especially racist with the broken b-movie English. Acting in a way to emphasize stereotypes of First Nations people as drunks, stupid or subhuman makes that one blatantly racist (while some others may not be intentionally racist but certainly contribute to systemic racism).

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      I think for me the message reads more as, don’t pick the worst weak ass stereotypes to portray. I’m a member of the society for creative anachronism, and there are plenty of people there who are really in to cultures they don’t belong to by blood. They’re very devoted to portraying the time period and culture they’ve chosen as accurately as possible. I don’t talk about my spirituality much online but this part of it also seems relevant: I don’t think spirit knows color and I think you can be called to any belief system regardless. Plus race is quite complex and identity matters and has several layers. So I don’t think it’s inherently bad to choose another culture to costume. I think it’s bad to choose SEXY ASIAN ORCHID as a costume. I also might make a case against doing this on Halloween, where there’s a certain assumption of silliness and so forth, but I am not going to say I have a firm opinion on that; Halloween is a religious type holiday for me and I don’t dress up at all, so I’ll leave that issue for people who do participate in that way.

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        I’m one of the “West Virginia white privileged” (grew up without running water or electricity until I was 11…but boy life’s been a cakewalk since then). I’m 30 and haven’t dressed up in years, but when I was a kid I didn’t design my costume to be “silly”, like most people I designed it after something I respected or had interest in (being a young male, usually some type of warrior (of any race, my parents were extremely insensitive, racist hippies and didn’t limit me to only “white people” costumes). I think Halloween is the best (and probably only) time where dressing up like this is OK. Also, for people with extremely limited money it isn’t really realistic to ask them to devote too much resources into their costume.

        This isn’t just about Halloween for me, I’m not a big fan of the ultra PC movement where you have to think about every move you make to make sure you’re not offending someone in some way. Life if very complex, let’s teach people to think about what someone’s intentions are instead of looking for things that they might be able to consider offensive.

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    I just want to mention that I am a caucasian girl who is not likely associated with many cultural stereotypes (for example, a Geisha), but I have had the same experiences with men sexualizing me as you have had. This probably happens to you in large part because you are a woman, not solely because you are Asian. I have also had men randomly grab and kiss me at bars, and have witnessed this happening to two of my white girl friends (and we were unfortunately drunk and not quick enough to dodge their saliva).. I have even been asked if I am a prostitute, and once while waiting for my boyfriend by the men’s bathroom had a guy start grinding on me, and when I pushed him away he called me a fucking slut. Men also automatically assume white girls are sexually available and demure and straight, etc etc. This is what women in general experience, and not only Asian girls have to deal with it. I just think it’s wrong to assume that this happens to you because you are Asian and because you are associated with Geishas, and that white girls don’t experience the same thing, it’s called being a woman. Maybe there are men who have always wanted to date an Asian girl, but there are also men who have always wanted to date a white girl with blond hair, big boobs, and blue eyes (like a playboy model)- should blond haired big breasted girls be offended when people dress as playboy bunnies for Halloween? Probably, but I’m not because it’s a character and I don’t see it as being me, even if ignorant disgusting random men do. I think 4 of the 5 posters are racist and horrible, but I don’t agree with the Geisha one being racist. I think someone dressing an an Asian in general would be racist (i.e. putting chopsticks in their hair, eating sushi etc). But a Geisha is a particular character, and does not represent all Asians (like a Ninja etc, which no one has a problem with). Yes it’s sexual, but so is dressing as a playboy bunny, and it does NOT represent all white women, just like a Geisha does NOT represent all Asian women. You are sexualized because you are a woman, just like all women in all cultures.

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      I don’t think anyone is saying white women aren’t sexualized. I respect and trust Whitney’s position about the sexualization of Asian women. I can only speak to my own experience and costumes of the “Pocahontas” “sexy sq***” and “Nava-Ho” variety.

      In this case there is a direct correlation between the sexualized stereotype and my experiences as a female bodied Nishmanadowuk(two-spirits) person. Sexual harassment when I am read as First Nations is not the same experience as those of white women, or in situations where I pass as white and am still sexually harassed. I’ve had men directly reference racist stereotypes while making rape threats, and the stranger who assaulted me on the way to class made fetishistic remarks about my race.

      Statisticly, in North America, Australia and New Zealand, indigenous women are raped and sexually assaulted at much higher rates than other women. In the US and Canada statistics indicate that First Nations women are more likely to be assaulted by non-indigenous men (70-90% of cases involve non-indigenous men, depending on jurisdiction and study), while ‘white’ women are more likely to be assaulted by men of their own race who they know. According to Amnesty International, sexual assaults against First Nations women are more likely to involve physical violence and a greater degree of bodily harm. Several studies, including Amnesty International’s have suggested racial stereotyping is a contributor to this discrepancy.

      An argument can be made that “sexy-Pocahontas” is a historical character and not representative of all First Nations women, but unfortunately in the mainstream media there are no representations of First Nations women which are not either hyper-sexualized or ugly and ‘primitive’. This means that the “Pocahontas” stereotype is often left to stand in for all First Nations women.

      I don’t have statistics on Asian women and sexual violence, but I think, based on Whitney’s account, that the dynamic is similar. The Geisha stereotype may be a particular character, but in the absence of other representation it is too often taken to stand in for all Asian women, resulting in increased sexual harassment and sexual harassment compounded with racist remarks. In my experience sexual harassment which has included racist remarks has felt even more dehumanizing than sexual harassment on it’s own.

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      I get your point- we are all definitely sexualized as women. However, I also really understand the author’s point of view, because her experiences are similar to what I have gone through as an Asian American. You said you think it’s wrong for her to assume certain events have happened to her, because she is Asian, but I don’t think she is wrong. She’s not making an assumption. There’s research in Sociology that says Asian American women are particularly oversexualized in America because of their race. It’s because we are Asian and also women. People are sexualized for different reasons. It could be solely due to being a girl, or it can be due to being a girl as well as a minority. Whether that minority be that she is disabled, of colour, a lesbian and so on. Being an obvious double minority in America does affect how certain groups of people perceive and react to you. I don’t think it’s fair for you to say that the author, and anyone who feels like the author, such as myself, have invalid feelings. They are our personal life experiences that have hurt and discomforted us. The point of this article was to bring awareness of how racial minorities feel, so I think the most any of us can do is just try to understand/respect that and not be critical of it.

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    I don’t even like it when people do that obnoxious Irish for a day nonsense. I find that super culturally insensitive and gross, especially since it’s always THIS GIVES US AN EXCUSE TO BE DRUNKS BECAUSE IRISH PEOPLE ARE ALL DRUNKS. Oh ok, well, us Irish have only ALWAYS been portrayed as stupid sodden assholes who are only good for a jig now and then, and/or being worked to death somewhere, or used as cannon fodder.

    That’s the problem. None of that up there is accurate and it’s all about archetypes, it’s about stereotypes. It’s not sensitive. It’s not done out of love or whatever. I mean all you need to do is look at that black face costume to know this shit is all about the worst stereotypes people can dredge up. People from say, the SCA are often really committed to recreating historically accurate costumes and I dig that, but this is not even close.