ACK! Are You Wearing One Of These Offensive Costumes?

offensive costumes these are racist costumes

Have you worn any of these? Don’t do it again. | Source

Halloween is one of the best holidays, if not the best. You get to dress up in something crazy, party it up, and eat candy–plus, there’s no pressure to buy people gifts like there is at Christmas and Hanukkah. Brilliant, right?! Right. Unless a couple of jerks show up at your Halloween party wearing offensive costumes. And by offensive? We mean racist.

Don’t know if you’ve seen the “We’re A Culture, Not A Costume” campaign posters that have been going around on Facebook, but they’re popping up like wildfire in my feed, and I’m loving it. In the posters, normal people hold up pictures of people wearing super offensive costumes that depict their race or culture in an exaggerated, stereotyped way–like a cute guy from what looks like Middle Eastern descent holding up a photo of some white dude dressed as a “Middle Eastern terrorist” with a bomb strapped to his chest. The copy reads, “This is NOT who I am, and this is NOT okay.”

It’s a great statement and one I couldn’t agree with more. A lot of cultures and groups of people have had to live through hell just because of the color of their skin or their beliefs. To masquerade as part of another culture to be funny (I think the terrorist was meant to be funny, but um, NO, it’s not) or to be “sexy”, like in a geisha costume–which carries out the stereotype of Asian women being sex objects, is gross.

I have a sense of humor about a lot of things, but racism isn’t really something that we can excuse or say it’s okay because someone is just “having a little fun.” Stereotypes suck, they hurt people, and they keep us from actually getting to know each other and everything that makes each of us so freaking amazing.

Remember that awesome show Pepper Ann? Right, well, she learned this lesson in one of my favorite episodes. Wanna watch? (of course you do):

So, let’s all agree on something, okay? Please don’t paint your face another skin tone this Halloween to try to be someone of a different race (I shouldn’t have to say this, but blackface and brownface aren’t funny, people!), and avoid being a walking stereotype of ANY kind. I mean, we all know you’re a lot more creative than that, anyway.

What would you do if your friends wore offensive costumes like these? Would you say something? What are you going to be for Halloween this year? Tell us in the comments.

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  • Nelson

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  • Sara Long

    Finally! I’ve toiled with keeping it in seeing girls dress up as “Indians” on Halloween at my High School, with their neon feather headdresses (highly disrespectful), sloppy face-paint, chunky beaded necklaces, and slutty ripped clothes.
    I am an Iroquois and I wear only what is appropriate for the situation. My dreamcatcher, made specifically for me by one of my relatives, hangs above my bed, not made-in-China hanging from my rearview mirror. I use only natural feathers and leather in my work, and the bone I sometimes work with I receive from local hunters who would have discarded it, and I soak them in bleach.
    I’m glad to see this campaign taking root.

  • Julia

    While some costumes ARE offensive, like blackface for instance, some are not. I don’t think the geisha one is bad, or a flamenco dancer, etc. Just because you dress as part of a culture doesn’t mean you think that is what they are all like or you are making fun of them. I’m white and American but I wouldn’t be mad if someone was dressed as a pilgrim.

  • tmomma

    Hack babies to pieces = good per
    Wear and emulate the various cultures showing affection to the diversity of the differences, which would be the OPPOSITE of racism = bad pr

    • B


  • Artemis95

    Many costumes can be offensive, if they are meant to tear down the culture as a whole. But some costumes, like the geisha, only depict a part of a culture. It doesn’t reflect the whole culture, and if someone generalizes it as every member of that culture, it is usually a sign of a weak mind more than anything else. And there IS a difference between tearing a culture down, and wearing a costume because it’s something you find beautiful. Personally, I think people are far too worried about offending others. Clearly, “blackface” or obviously cruel costumes are wrong. But it was the Spanish teacher who I am a teacher’s aid for, who suggested that I go as a Spanish flamenco dancer. I thought it was strange, since I’m a blue eyed blonde, but she thought it fit since I speak Spanish fluently and know more about the culture than most of the people in my school who are a part of it.

  • Shannon

    My ancestors were very early immigrants to america, so the equivilant of the geisha costume for Japanese people is like a pilgrim costume for me. Its not saying the entire culture is made of of geishas, just like if someone wears a pilgrim costume it’s not saying all white people are pilgrims. And if someone wears a “sexy” pilgrim costume, its not portraying white women as sex objects, they have sexy EVERYTHING now. Even sexy nun costumes! And the “black” costume is suppose to lil wayne (you can tell by the tatoos and the dreads), is it offensive to paint your face to look african american? yes. but in general is it offensive to dress up as a famous singer? not at all! As long as you say you’re “a geisha” or “a vaquero” and not “a japanese person” or “a mexican” and you understand that its a part of the culture and doesnt represent the whole group, it’s not really that bad. However that terrorist one is pretty offensive, not just to middle easterners because it make them seem bad, but also to Americans because terrorists have caused so much pain to this country. It’s just like if someone dresses up as the Texas A&m shooter or James Holmes, the guy who shot up the Aurora theater.

  • anonymous

    I thought i should let everyone know that HALLOWEEN IS NOT A HOLIDAY!!!! holidays mean no school and work. last year, i remember i went to school on halloween…….

  • Kara

    I smell butthurt.

  • Anna

    But what if you’re wearing a Kimono because you think it’s a beautiful costume? Seriously, not everyone is mocking cultures. Some are showing their respect for it. You don’t see me freaking out every time someone says ‘all Germans are Nazis’ or ‘all Italians are whores’ even though I know those stereotypes are costumes too.

    • mia

      well there’s a diffrence between appreciating a culture and completely mocking a culture. You can embrace a culture by respecting it, but also mock it by limiting their beliefs, values, heritage, music, riturals, etc. to one silly, stereotypical costume. Wearing a kimono because you think its beautiful is cool but dressing up in blackface and other hateful stereotypes isn’t.

    • CerebralComa

      Appropriation is never appreciation. It is not your culture and you would not be able to respect it in the same way as someone who’s culture it was. Kimonos are used for specific purposes. Furisode kimonos are worn at coming-of-age ceremonies and by unmarried female relatives of the bride at weddings and wedding receptions. Homongi kimonos are worn at wedding receptions and formal parties. Iromuji are worn to tea ceremonies. Komon kimonos are worn to formal events or restaurants. Mofuku kimonos are worn when in mourning. Tomesode kimonos are worn by married women to weddings. Tsukesage kimonos are worn to parties. Uchikake kimonos are worn by brides or by stage performers. Susohiki / Hikizuri kimonos are worn by geisha. As you can see, most kimonos are not the type of clothing you wear to a Halloween party, and any type of kimono you buy at a super store probably won’t adhere to culture traditions or be made correctly. Not to mention the fact that you have no idea what it’s like to be someone in this culture, and feel what they feel everyday. You haven’t worn specific kimonos to specific events, and especially have not felt the discrimination they may feel when wearing a kimono in a country where it is not tradition.
      However, the most important fact is that if someone of this culture finds it offensive, it’s offensive. Because you are not apart of this culture you are not allowed to tell them what they find offensive because if you do, you’re just oppressing them by taking away their voice. So if you want to dress in a kimono, it’s your choice. But you should be aware that you are consciously choosing to be ignorant and offensive.

      • Aisling

        Just because you aren’t part of a culture doesn’t mean that it’s offensive to wear a traditional dress from that culture. As long as you’re respectful and you learn to wear it in the correct way, it’s not a big deal. Of course you won’t be as familiar with the styles and purposes of different kimonos in the same way that a Japanese person would be, but they don’t expect you do be. I’m not Japanese, but when I wore a kimono that my cousin bought for me in Japan, my Japanese friends said that I looked beautiful in it. There is nothing ignorant about wearing an authentic kimono in the correct fashion.