City Desk

Happy Halloween! Reminder: Blackface is Never Okay

Look, I get it. Halloween is coming up, and people want to dress up. There are so many celebrities one could be: Beyonce. Nicki Minaj. Herman Cain!

But I'm going to be real with you: Being an individual of a different race is fine, going as a stereotype just makes you look racist, and blackface is never, never okay.

WAMU's Elahe Izadi is far more diplomatic than I in her coverage of offensive Halloween costumes:

Why is it problematic to dress up as a Mexican for Halloween? Jelani Cobb, African studies professor at Rutgers University, explains to CNN: "To treat a character like Batman or Superman as a Halloween costume is one thing, but to treat an entire ethnicity as a costume is something else. It suggests that people conflate the actual broad diversity of a culture with caricatures and characters."

But not everyone agrees; negative comments flooded Melissa Sipin’s blog, which first reported about the [We Are A Culture, Not A Costume] campaign on Sunday before national media took note. Critics feel the campaign is a hyper-sensitive reaction to people who simply want to have fun on Halloween, a time to relax and check all the seriousness at the door.

Nope. That's wrong. If the plan is to go to a party full of other people who "simply" want to have "fun" mocking people of other races, go for it, but be warned: That's racist. If the plan is to be out in public where, say, a person of Mexican descent has to look at you dressed like an "illegal" (see poster) it's probably time to check yourself.

And, I repeat: Blackface is never okay.

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  • Southeast Ken

    Political correctness has destroyed America. As I black man, I am not offended if a white, Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Russian, Italian, dress up in black face.

    We need to stop being over sensitive regarding these matters. The United States of America need to have a serious discussion about race relations between blacks and whites.

  • Southeast Ken

    Correction: As a black man, I am not offended if a white, Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Russian, Italian, dressing up in black face for Halloween.

  • Shani Hilton

    @Southeast Ken: as a black woman, I am offended. So, which one of us is right?

    And I think more sensitivity combined with real talk leads to greater discussion, rather than calling people overly sensitive and then going about one's day.

  • Jander

    what if you are dressing up as Juan Valdez -- a specific caricature from a label? That's not dressing up as an ethnicity, it's dressing up as a character. And what if you want to dress up in drag as Beyonce? You'd have brown make up. What's the problem? Plus if the makeup is good enough, you wouldn't really know what the ethnicity of the person under it is, would you?

  • Shani Hilton

    @Jander my stance is that there are enough signifiers that you can be a individual of a different race without changing your skin color.

  • Meg

    Question: Is there a difference if you were dressing up as a stereotype (sombrero and poncho to represent the "Mexican" stereotype) or as someone who happens to be of a different race (say, a white girl dressing up as Beyonce)?

  • Meg

    I guess my point being, one is derogatory and the other is reverential. Doesn't context mean something?

  • Shani Hilton

    @Meg, of course. That's why I wrote this in the post: "Being an individual of a different race is fine" and this in the comments above you: "you can be a individual of a different race without changing your skin color."

  • Meg

    But if it's just a matter of coloring the skin, as long as it's not intended to be a stereotype, why should it matter? People dye their hair and go through plastic surgery to look like other celebrities, but coloring the skin is taboo? I'm not arguing, just wondering.

  • noodlez

    I AGREE WITH S.E. KEN ON THE POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. AMERICA NEEDS TO MAN UP ON SOME SHIT. HOWEVER I CAN UNDERSTAND IF SOME BLACK FOLK ARE OFFENDED BY THE “BLACKFACE” BECAUSE IT IS A RACIST TAUNT AND REMIND FOLK OF THE WHITE MAN AND HIS INSUFFICIENCIES FROM BACK IN THE DAY.

    I PERSONALLY DONT GIVE A SHIT! THE REALITY IS A RACIST WILL ALWAYS BE A RACIST AND IT IS BETTER TO KNOW WHO THE RACIST IS TO BE ABLE TO ADDRESS SAID RACIST THAN TO HAVE SAID RACIST GO UNDETECTED BECAUSE HE/SHE HAVENT EARNED THEIR WHITE POWER STRIPES.

    FEAR OF BECOMING INSIGNIFICANT IS WHAT FUELS THEIR POSITION. SOMETIMES THEY OFTEN HIDE BEHIND SUCH EVENTS LIKE HALLOWEEN BUT BEING A RACIST AND BEING UNSENSITIVE TO RACISM ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. “And I think more sensitivity combined with real talk leads to greater discussion . . .” YOU ARE NOT DEALING WITH THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM BY WHINING ABOUT HOW IT’S HURTING YOUR FEELINGS AND TALKING ABOUT IT. THAT IS WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO DO BECAUSE IT MAKES THEM SIGNIFICANT.

    IF YOU ARE ALL IN WITH YOUR COSTUME AND IT REQUIRES YOU TO COLOR YOUR SKINTONE MAYBE AS A FRIEND YOU MAY WANT TO REMIND SAID PERSON OF THE POSTION THEY ARE PUTTING YOU IN WITH THEIR COSTUME DECISION AND HOW IT MAY REFLECT SOMETHING DEEPER THAN THE COSTUME.

  • Jes’ sayin’

    If I want to go out as Speaker of the House John Boehner, is it okay to change my skin color to that of the breakfast drink Tang?

  • Southeast Ken

    First let me say, being Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, etc, isn't a race, it's a nationality. Hispanics can be of any race. I have traveled to Cuban, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Colombia. Many of their citizens are black like black Americans. Remember, the slave trade went to the Caribbean and South America before coming to the United States.

    Shani Hilton, I think it depends on the individual. I was born in 1955 during Jim Crowism and segregation. I guess I have grown a thick skin to not let certain things offend me. Suppose a black, white, or Latino person dressed up in a white sheet, would this offend you? I still think, we have let political correctness destroy freedom of expression and speech. If a white, black, Jewish, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran, Mexican, Middle Easterner dressed up in black face, it wouldn't offend me. Someone calling me the N word wouldn't offend me either. I can assure you, I've been called the N word by whites, white Jews, and many other non whites. What does bothers me, if someone does physical harm to me. That's when it hurts. LOL

  • Southeast Ken

    Hey Noodlez, you always make my date with your comments whether I agree with you are not. I think people should be able to say or express how they truly feel in their hearts. To be honest, I don't trust Caucasians period, but if they want to dress up in black face for Halloween, it doesn't bother me. I am afraid or leery of Caucasians pretending to be liberals and know what's best for blacks. I can assure you, Caucasians don't trust blacks either. We tolerate each other daily in society by being polite to one another.

  • MeToo

    You know what happened with the release of "White Chicks", which involves black men masquerading as white girls and preying on the racial and social stereotypes therein? A sequal.

    I guess its ok for the Wayans brothers to do it - they're so groundbreaking.

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  • Jes’ sayin’

    I'm glad no one brought up Shirley Q. Liquor, because I have a hunch that Shani Hilton is not a fan.

  • RB

    I saw some of the ad campaign and I thought that some were kind of silly. For example, in one of the ads, it shows a geisha, then has an Asian girl hold up the picture and say that this is her. Really, you are a geisha?!? I know that when the movie came out dressing as a geisha became popular because they were beautiful. No one is making fun. Then it has a black girl, holding up a picture of the most horrible ghetto-looking female I have ever seen, black or white. Really, you are the ghetto princess??? The ad offended me more than the costume. I know that I am not what was depicted on that ad, and I have a problem for some trying to make it seem that we all identify that way. At some point, we will have crossed the line from political correctness to Oceania in 1984.

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