Blackface, Crazy Eyes and Other Racist Costumes for Halloween

BlogHer Original Post

Halloween. It’s from the devil, I tell ya. How else can you explain the complete lack of any kind of judgment, consideration or even common sense involved in some of the racist costumes we’re seeing this year?

Take this widely circulated photo of two white teenagers dressed up as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, for example. The guy dressed as Martin wore black makeup on his face and a red bloodstain on his hoodie! Evanka Williamson on Global Grind writes:

“Not only is this blatantly racially offensive on levels of the extreme but also completely disrespectful to the parents and family of Trayvon Martin, who’s life is now becoming a joke. The life and death of Trayvon Martin is NOT a joke. Have we no heart? No compassion?”

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Or this photo of three guys with bloodstains and ripped suits posing as the captains of the Asiana Airlines flight that crashed in San Francisco. And if you look closely, their name tags read "Ho Lee Fuk," "Sum Ting Wong" and "Wi Tu Lo" -- the fake racist flight crew names that were infamously and erroneously reported on Oakland TV station KTVU. Phil Yu at Angry Asian Man is not amused:

“Three people die, dozens more injured. At least you guys got a good Halloween costume out of the tragedy.”

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Even celebrities who you'd imagine employ agents and publicists to prevent this sort of thing aren’t exempt. Julianne Hough of Dancing With the Stars dressed up as the character “Crazy Eyes” from the Netflix series Orange is the New Black… by wearing a jail jumpsuit and brown paint on her face.

Hough later apologized via a tweet:

"I am a huge fan of the show Orange is the New black, actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created. It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize."

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Why don’t people realize how offensive blackface – and other racially derogatory costumes—are before they decide to wear them? At a fashion industry party with the 'Disco Africa' theme, several designers wore actual blackface. As Luvvie at Awesomely Luvvie reminds us, the year is 2013:

“SO. MUCH. BLACKFACE! There are too many pictures floating around of college students, adults, fashion designers, random ingrates who decided that their costumes weren’t complete without the use of black or brown paint to change their skin color. AND MY SOUL IS BOTHERED TO THE CORE.

The fact that we still gotta tell people “Hey bro. Don’t do that blackface thing” in 2013 is mind-boggling. MIND. BOGGLING. What the hell is wrong with people??”

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These kinds of costumes are so commonplace that Adrienne at Native Appropriations is updating and reposting her Open Letter to the Pocahotties – which she originally wrote in 2011… and is apparently still needed.

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And of course, speaking out about racist Halloween costumes often spurs comments from people who feel their rights to dress up are being infringed upon. Actually, you can dress up as a person of another race… without painting your face or resorting to stereotypes. Tracy Clayton at Buzzfeed has some great examples of people who dressed up as people of another race – without being offensive.

Are the racial Halloween costumes worse than usual this year? What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs about raising an Asian mixed-race family at HapaMama.

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