Halloween Without Being Offensive (Hint: It’s Possible)

Each year for Halloween, a plethora of creative, innovative, and truly remarkable costumes appear.  However, there are equally as many clichéd, offensive, and culturally appropriated costumes.  While it is 2017, and in the age of Google we all really should know better now, there seems to be some disconnect between our tech-savvy generation and a simple internet search as to why some costumes are not appropriate.  All this aside, I would like to take a moment to address some of the most common offenses on this holiday that could otherwise be a time of fun, relaxation, and a chance to show off creativity.

1. Do NOT dress up as an “Indian.”

First of all, for someone to be Indian, they would have to be from the
country of India, not an indigenous person from the United States.  With that out of the way, it is still not okay to put on a costume that is supposed to resemble a Native American if you are not Native American.  With all the injustice that has been done and continues to be done against all of the indigenous populations of the United States, there is no need to heap insult on injury and mock a culture.  Dressing up as them, especially with the reigning idea a “slutty” or “savage”
version that perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes quite honestly makes you look ignorant.  Not to be harsh.  In addition, by doing this you flatten the diversity among different Native populations, ignoring the fact that there isn’t just one type of Native American.

2. Do NOT wear blackface.

This one is personal for me, considering the fact that I am a black person living in an era where people still think it is acceptable to paint their faces black.  THERE IS A WAY TO DRESS UP AS A BLACK PERSON WITHOUT WEARING BLACKFACE.  If you honestly don’t think there is, you don’t need to be dressing up for Halloween anyway.  Stay home.  When black people are criticized for their culture, only to have other people stereotype and take on those cultural aspects for “fun,” people understandably feel upset.  Kim Kardashian dressed up as Aaliyah for one of her Halloween costumes this year.  While she is getting a lot of backlash, she was able to dress up as an iconic black singer WITHOUT wearing blackface, regardless of whether we think she was out of her lane or not.  If Kim K can do it, you can too.

3. Do NOT dress up as a Mexican person.

College campuses lately have been guilty of having “Mexican parties” where they take their most offensive stereotypes and play them out in the name of fun.  Not okay.  With signs displaying offensive terms, bottles of tequila, and sombreros, people think it’s all in good fun. Wrong.  If you are playing into stereotypes about another culture, you can probably assume that the costume is wrong.  People are constantly discriminated against because they “look” Mexican, and people believe Trump’s rhetoric that they are “taking our jobs.”  To dress up as someone who is considered the “harmful, illegal alien” and make fun of assumed aspects of a culture is disrespectful.

4. Do NOT dress up as an Arab person.

There are so many ways to go wrong with this one, because the way y’all’s President is acting, everyone thinks being or “looking Arab” means that someone is basically a terrorist.  Then, there is the tendency to assume that every Arab person is also Muslim.  That is a generalization that is false.  These generalizations have resulted in actual policy change in the United States, with 45 banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.  Generalizations and stereotypes can be harmful.  Why would you want to play into that? People are literally being discriminated against, kept out of the country, and targeted in airport security because of the way they look.  What would ever make it okay for someone else to dress up in a way that people who actually are of a certain culture have to be scared to do?

This is not to say that I have composed an extensive list of every way you can be offensive and insensitive and flat out wrong on Halloween. There are so many cultures that you do not need to appropriate, and having an *insert cultural identity here* friend does NOT make whatever stereotypes you’re perpetuating okay.  Ultimately, this is reducing a culture and a people to less-than-human status, so you can coopt whatever part of them or their culture you see fit.  These cultures are constantly discriminated against, so to see them used by someone else and accepted is hurtful and wrong.  If you even think there is the slight possibility there is something offensive or wrong about your costume, ask a friend.  Do a quick Google search.  I promise, someone will help you out.  No one is trying to take away your fun.  If you can’t have fun without being disrespectful or insensitive, that seems like a problem you need to address personally.  Now that we have had a chance to address these issues, remember, someone’s culture is NOT a costume, and saying “I didn’t know” is an inadequate excuse for ignorance.  Intention doesn’t always justify the outcome.

Article Written By: Imani Johnson

Stick to Your Day Job

“This is about the time, when I start talking about politics, that the internet trolls tell me to stick to my day job–so I’d like to talk about my day job. My day job is as the chairman and the co-founder of Thorn. We build software to fight human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.” said Ashton Kutcher to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Feb. 15th.

We know him as Kelso on That 70’s Show, or maybe as the host of Punk’d. We do not question his authority on stoner comedy or celebrity pranks. So why, when we discover that Kutcher also plays a leading role in combating human trafficking, do we ask that he stick to boob jokes and prank calls? Why should celebrities have a say in issues other than new fashion trends and diet fads?

We consume more media every day than we may even be aware of. Some days, college students hear more from the stars of their favorite Netflix show than they do from their parents. Celebrities tell us what lipstick to buy or what shoes to wear. Their songs affect our mood and their social media posts affect our timelines. Prominent figures have voices of varying influence in the lives of thousands, and in some cases millions of people. Now, with so many issues coming to national attention as we combat an oppressive White House administration, those voices can change the way we think about social justice and equality.

In February 2016, Tomi Lahren emerged as a well-known conservative figure when she critiqued Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show, saying that the use of Black Panther imagery in Beyonce’s performance of “Formation” was “not about equality, [but] about ram-rodding an aggressive agenda down our throats and using fame and entertainment value to do so.” Lahren is not necessarily wrong; Beyonce did wisely use her own staggering fame and new catchy tune to spread a message. From Lahren’s perspective, that message had no appeal. Lahren has never been a woman of color in a white man’s world. Yet to the young black girls who grew up in a country that treated them as a second thought, Beyonce’s message of black female power was encouraging. With this performance, Beyonce told women of color that they are worthy, strong, and absolutely unstoppable. Beyonce realized the platform she had, and used it to empower black women on a national level. All while working her “day job”.

A celebrity is, by definition, someone who is widely known. What they do with that influence is up to them. Some shy away from the responsibilities of having an amplified voice in a rebellious society. Yet others understand that it is a part of their “day job” to influence the consumers of media. We are all have different parts to play in today’s tumultuous political landscape. What if those cast in the starring roles didn’t deliver the lines needed to resolve the conflict? How would we ever be able to understand the perspectives of others and work towards a resolution?

Homophobic Hip Hop

If you’re like me, the release of Migos’ new album was the highlight of your week when it came out, and you’ve been blasting it ever since. At the gym, in your car, walking through campus; it really doesn’t matter, because the album is consistently lit enough to get you through any part of your day.

Following the release of their album, Migos interviewed with Rolling Stone, during which the interviewer asked how they felt about iLoveMakonnen coming out. Apparently this was news to Migos, and there was an awkward silence before Quavo expresses his surprise. Even more, they express distaste with the fans and others who supported iLoveMakonnen’s decision, with Offset saying, “This world is not right.” Along with many others, Migos seem to believe that not being cisgendered and heterosexual undermines the credibility of a hip hop artist.

This attitude is not at all new to hip hop culture. While some artists have been accepted in mainstream culture recently, for the most part the hip hop culture and lifestyle is seen as incompatible with anyone whose identity lies outside of gender norms. This credibility issue continues to come up, with even artists that say they support LGBTQ artists not wanting to have ties with them. When giving statements supporting the LGBTQ community and the artists that identify with some part of it, straight hip hop artists often preface their support with, “I’m not gay but…” Why is this qualifier necessary? Why is hip hop so determined to separate itself from certain groups of people?

Some artists don’t believe hip hop culture will ever fully accept LGBTQ artists in their ranks, because, according to an interview with Snoop Dogg, it’s such a “masculine” genre. Migos themselves have often raved about the diversity of hip hop in Atlanta, yet cannot reconcile the idea that diversity can include personal identities about sexuality. With hip hop lyrics often littered with slurs about gay men, artists who don’t identify as straight men are often disinclined to be real about their sexuality, in fear of losing “credibility” in the hip hop culture.

In a Vulture article earlier this month, the writer posits that rejecting the idea that anyone who is not straight can be a “real” hip hop artist is simply bigotry used to protect the hierarchy in hip hop culture. To be a “real man” means certain things, and for the most part, hip hop doesn’t seem inclined to work to change that.

There have been a train of artists working to provide more inclusion for LGBTQ artists in hip hop. Many, like Jay-Z, have changed their tune concerning old lyrics spouting homophobia, apologizing for them. The recent uptick in artists coming out has forced many hip hop artists to grapple with their own homophobia, and if they are still going to discriminate against artists, and other individuals, who don’t fit their idea of a “real” hip hop artist. While hip hop has often been used as a tool of social activism to fight against injustice, it seems that a glaring blind spot has existed with LGBTQ rights, and will most likely exist for a long time until many more artists within hip hop work to change that aspect of culture that discredits artists who aren’t straight men.


For further reading:

Snoop Lion Talks Homosexuality in Rap Music, Frank Ocean’s Coming Out

Migos’ Wild World: One Night Inside the Studio with ‘Bad and Boujee’ Trio

Rap is Less Homophobic Than Ever, But It Has a Long Way to Go

How Homophobic is Hip Hop in 2016?

Has Hip Hop Outgrown Homophobia?: A Timeline

From A$AP to Jay Z: 15 Hip Hop Stars Who Think Homophobes are Muthaf*ckers