8 Racist Halloween Costumes White People Need to Stop Wearing
Cultural Appropriation 101
"picking and choosing elements of a culture by a member of another culture without permission. This includes traditional knowledge, religious symbols, artifacts or any other unauthorized use of cultural practice or ideation." [x]
Geishas are part of a subculture in Japan with strict rules and protocols. Being a geisha is a highly respected profession, so throwing on a $40 mass-produced kimono and painting your face white isn't honouring them, it's a slap in the face. Are you familiar with the process of becoming a geisha? Do you know how much effort is involved, how much time it takes, how much is sacrificed?
Check out the documentary below for a glimpse of what it's like to apprentice as a geisha. It'll definitely make you think twice about putting on a kimono and shuffling around come Halloween.
INSTEAD of a Geisha: mime; pin-up; queen.
Watch: BBC's "Geisha Girl" (2005)
2. Native Princess/Chieftain
NO. This is particularly awful in Canada, where 1181 Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or missing between 1980 and 2012, and half (49%) of women murdered in Canada are Aboriginal.
Still, any white person dressing up as Native is being horrendously offensive. I don't care if you have a deep appreciation for a specific Native culture; I don't care if you've been to a reservation before and bought authentic moccasins; I don't care if you're 1/6th Cree. It's just not acceptable.
INSTEAD: European king/queen or princess/prince; Disney's Jane or Tarzan; Chuck Noland (Cast Away).
3. Any black celebrity/stereotype
No afro wigs, brown face paint, or dressing up as famous black people if you are not black. DON'T DO IT. White people dressing up as caricatures of black people has a long and racist history, called blackface and minstrelsy. White people would don blackface and travel in singing and dancing groups, the entire point of which was to mock black people. Click here to learn more about the history of blackface.
There are thousands of famous white people you could dress up as, so no, Braydon Campbell, there is absolutely no reason on earth that you need to dress up as Tupac Shakur.
INSTEAD: Literally any white celebrity, dead or alive. There are a tonne of them.
The word itself is often considered a slur, so you can imagine how insensitive dressing up as a Roma person is. Roma people have been systemically persecuted for hundreds of years; in World War II alone, the Germans and their allies killed 25% of all European Roma. Sadly, their persecution persists TO THIS DAY.
So don't wrap your hair in a bandana, slap on some bangles and wander around barefoot going on about how much you want to travel the world in a caravan. You are mocking the very real pain of an entire group of people, not just channelling your wanderlust.
INSTEAD: Explorer; backpacker; tourist; pirate.
5. Sugar Skull
I've noticed that this seems to be a big trend this year for some reason. My mom almost bought one of these costumes herself without realizing it was offensive, so I understand how white people buy and wear some of the costumes on this list with good intentions.
However, Day of the Dead, or Día de Los Muertos, is an important holiday in Mexico. It is a time for reflection, prayer, and honouring the deceased. It is a spiritual and culturally-specific holiday, so sugar skulls are not just pretty make-up for every white girl to paint her face with. They mean a lot more than that.
INSTEAD: Skeleton. Just a normal skeleton. You can even put some make-up on and be a glam skeleton. Done.
6. Mexican anything
While we're talking about Mexico, this is your friendly reminder NOT to don a sombrero, poncho, and adhesive moustache and shriek "Areeeeeeba!" Areeeeeeba!" at the top of your lungs. Considering the current debate about "illegal immigrants" from Mexico going on in the United States, including the two million plus people who have been deported from America in the past five years, this is particularly distasteful.
Are you Mexican? No. Have you ever even been to Mexico? Probably not. Even if you have, you still look like an asshole.
INSTEAD: 70s porn star/Ron Burgundy/stereotypical 70s man (if you've already bought the moustache); Victorian or Edwardian gentleman; bard.
"Illegal" - what it's like to live undocumented in America.
7. Egyptian anything
Pharaohs, Cleopatra costumes, Nefertiti costumes, anks, etc. is not for white people to wear. The Ancient Egyptians were basically the only black, African civilization given any exposure or respect, and even then their blackness is systemically denied (umm, hello? Egypt is in AFRICA). And yes, there is no doubt that they really were black. Like I said before, there are so many other options available to us white people.
INSTEAD: Ancient Greek, Roman, Medieval/Gothic, or European royalty.
8. Indian anything
If I see ONE MORE white girl wearing a bindi, I'm going to scream. Only desi and Hindu people can wear bindis and tikkas. I don't care if Gwen Stefani did it; I don't care if Selena Gomez did it; I just don't care. They were wrong for reducing the bindi to a fashion accessory, and so are you.
INSTEAD: European royalty or historical dress; faery/mermaid/fantasy character (you can stick gems on plenty of other places on your face!).