Every Halloween, student activists remind their peers that race-based costumes can offend. You may have seen the posters on campus. They say things like: “My culture is not a costume.”
The message appears to be getting through. At McMaster University, “Sexy Indian Princess” and “Eskimo Cutie” costumes were on sale at the campus bookstore last week but an editorial in The Silhouette student newspaper quickly condemned them. (For those who don’t see why dressing up this way offends, consider the amount of sexual violence Indigenous women endure.)
Another Halloween tradition students are told to stay away from is painting one’s face black. That offends folks who know the history of white racists caricaturing black Americans with black face paint at minstrel shows. After the traditional Halloween party weekend, no reports of racist costumes emerged from Canadian campuses. There was, however, a report of a Florida man dressed as Trayvon Martin. The real test is Thursday.
Some think the annual outcry goes too far. Klara Woldenga, writing in the University of Victoria’s Martlet, satirized the outrage with a group ghosts, warewolves and vampires called the Altered Living Alliance protesting stereotypes. Comments so far suggest some readers aren’t laughing.