Last year several students’ Halloween costumes set off a chain of events which included a petition with over 2,500 signatures calling on the University to address the campus climate on racial issues and the promise for a campus climate survey to address racial issues. The costumes, which were designed to imitate lower-class Mexican gangsters, were both inappropriate and culturally appropriative, and the Maroon Editorial Board calls on the campus community to be mindful and respectful when choosing a costume this Saturday.
The events following last Halloween were not the first incidents of racial insensitivity on this campus in recent years. In spring 2012 two fraternities faced bias claims and in spring 2013 a Facebook page entitled “Politically Incorrect Maroon Confessions” launched, featuring discriminatory content. During the events last fall, anonymous and personal attacks flooded social media.
This Halloween we would like to emphasize that no one’s culture is a costume. It is not one person’s place to represent another historically marginalized group through their outfit. Many members of marginalized groups are very familiar with seeing their identities presented by others in American (and other) media, more often as the butt of a joke than not. Costumes that continue this trend are not only the opposite of original and decidedly not funny, but they are also definitely hurtful. “Dressing up” as a stereotype reduces an entire group—its members, its history, and its struggles—to a joke. This is dehumanizing to the individuals and fellow students who identify as part of that culture and insensitive to the burdens that come with that identity. By aping another person’s culture, the costume-wearer seeks to socially profit off of making fun of others, contributing to the further marginalization of this culture for the sake of a couple cheap laughs. In addition, it is not acceptable to claim ignorance as an excuse, especially on our campus. All members of our campus community have the means and responsibility to act in a way that does not degrade other members of our shared community.
We urge all members of the campus community to think critically about the costumes they choose to wear on Halloween, and by extension, how individual actions affect a campus climate. Not only should students choose respectful costumes, but they should also speak up if a friend opts to wear an offensive one. We all have the responsibility to speak up in the face of insensitive and inappropriate actions, and must continue to work towards a campus climate that is welcoming to all members of the community.
—The Maroon Editorial Board