Most college students around this time of year are putting the finishing touches on their costumes and trying to decide which of several Halloween parties they'll be attending this weekend. But a student group at Ohio University is being more cautious about joining in on the fun.
Students Teaching Against Racism (STARS) have started a poster campaign denouncing what they say are racist Halloween costumes. The posters show students of different ethnicities holding photographs of "offensive" costumes -- an Asian woman holds a geisha; a Hispanic man holds a Mexican man in a traditional sombrero; and there are others, too. The posters read: "We're a Culture, Not Costume. This Is Not Who I Am, And This Is Not Okay."
I'm so depressed after flipping through all the posters that I can't help but wonder if we should just cancel Halloween altogether and be done with it.
Here's STARS president and political science major Sarah Williams explaining the goal of the campaign:
We wanted to highlight these offensive costumes because we’ve all seen them ... We just wanted to say, "Hey, this is not cool. This is offensive and this shouldn’t be taken lightly." It’s offending a culture and people should be aware.
While the students are making an important point about the need to be culturally sensitive -- and not just on Halloween but on the other 364 days of the year -- they're doing it in such a way that spoils the spirit of the holiday. In most instances, people dressing up for Halloween are doing it for fun and laughs. Of course, I can't speak for everyone involved, but rarely do people choose Halloween costumes with a malicious intention. This poster campaign suggests otherwise.
Are there people in the world who make horribly insensitive choices because they think they are being funny when really they need a bit of education and a theoretical slap on the wrist? Yes, most definitely. But if I saw someone in blackface or dressed as a terrorist at a Halloween party, I'd either leave (who wants to hang out with people like that?) or, better yet, call them out on their offensive costume (politely, of course, but in a way that gets my point across).
There are ways to have a conversation about important issues like inaccurate stereotypes and cultural insensitivity, but I see super-serious posters that accuse people of using Halloween as an excuse to be racist as a surefire way to shut those conversations down.
Image via STARS