PSA: Halloween is tomorrow and it’s still never an excuse for blackface

Just go as a witch and be done with it

Halloween weekend is upon us and despite being broken up into cake tiers restricting how hard we can party, we can all still dress up this spooky season. October is the season for pumpkin carving and watching horror films over and over again, because why not? Whether you and your pals are off to Spoons in cat ears and call it a night at 10pm or going hard at a sit-down club night in fairy wings, you do you.

But as it is that time of year, some people still need to be reminded that because you want to dress up it is still not an excuse to darken your skin to fit the aesthetic of your costume or to appropriate somebody else’s culture. Just don’t do it.

‘But I just want people to know who I’m dressed up as!’

Blackface dates back to hundreds of years where white people would paint their faces black and impersonate black people as a form of entertainment for other white people. This only reinforced negative and racist stereotypes towards black people and deduced black people to their skin colour being something to poke fun at for other’s amusement.

You’re ignoring the history behind blackface, our skin is not a costume for you and your friends’ amusement. Partaking in blackface as a white person is reinforcing the underlying racism behind many people’s actions. No, this isn’t being a “snowflake”, if you can understand why darkening your skin to “look like somebody else” is wrong, then it’s also your job to educate those who don’t.

Yep, costumes that appropriate a marginalised group’s culture is also wrong

Now I’m not trying to police you into what you can and cannot wear but come on, be smart and just go as a cat or a witch. There is never a need to “dress up” as a “Mexican” or a “Native”, because what are you gaining from other people laughing at somebody’s culture you thought was a really good idea?

Let me give you an example, a group of boys I knew dressed in sombreros and with fake moustaches speaking in a weird “Spanish/Mexican” accent because they wanted to dress up as Mexican people for Halloween. WHY? What would genuinely possess you to think yes this is perfect, let me milk a stereotype of somebody’s culture for some laughs and a few likes on Instagram? Is making jokes at another’s expense through degrading somebody else’s culture that important to you? They’re people, not costumes.

You can still dress up without painting your face, you know that right?

Go ahead, dress up as Beyonce from the iconic music video that is Single Ladies, but do you really need to paint your face a darker shade to show to everybody you’re dressing up as Beyonce? No. Or if you want to dress up as Michael Jackson, Prince, the Obamas, or Lupita Nyong’o’s character in “Us,”  or anyone black for that matter, YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO BLACKFACE.

I’m pretty sure anybody is going to understand that if you’ve got Michael Jackson’s signature hat and glove and you start saying ‘hee hee’ at any given moment without painting your face black, they’ll understand. Blackface was done to humiliate black people at the highest degree and portrayed black people as lazy, stupid, and a lesser being, even if that wasn’t your intention just think about it when dressing up this Halloween.

‘But celebrities do it and get away with it’

Okay? For years celebrities and politicians from each side of the pond in one way or another have dressed up for Halloween in a completely tone-deaf and ignorant costume. This doesn’t, in turn, mean you need to just because they can issue an apology on their Instagram and promise to learn from their mistakes, yet surely somebody in that position should know better? They too, need to be held to account as much as the next person does, there is no denying that.

Countless times celebrities have chosen a costume that they or their publicist team likely didn’t think twice about and once they get called out it’s a matter of ‘I didn’t know any better’, a measly excuse to get away with it and continue as nothing happened.  Justin Trudeau, Julianne Hough, and even Jimmy Fallon have found themselves apologising for their costumes they didn’t think would offend anybody, despite being fully-grown adults.

If you’re feeling a little called out right now, maybe just think twice about your Halloween costume this year and if it is likely to offend somebody. You can do better by educating yourself as to why blackface and appropriating one’s culture is wrong, and just why going as a bunny or a cat is so much better than degrading somebody’s culture for some laughs.

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