It turns out Halloween isn’t just the day/week you get embarrassingly drunk, but also the day/week you get outed as a racist! I guess I kinda knew that before, but this seems to be a big year for people being publicly shamed for their harvest time merrymaking. And harvest time seems to be a big time for people to air out their backwards-ass racist laundry.
First up was Julianne Hough, who blacked up for her Crazy Eyes (of Orange is the New Black, played by Uzo Aduba) costume. As Laverne Cox, another Orange cast member said, it seems like it just completely slipped Hough’s mind to wonder if the costume would be received badly.
“…it’s really interesting that she doesn’t seem to understand.”
There’s been lots of Hough’s friends coming to her defense, saying she hasn’t got a mean bone in her body, she’s mortified, and so on. It’s definitely not hard to believe that she was so stupid she didn’t think about it, cause, hey, this is America. Hough’s costume falls into sort of the same category as “Indian” costumes, where, yeah, it’s messed up, but the people wearing it are too ignorant to know better. Which doesn’t reflect as badly upon the wearer as an individual, but the fact that they didn’t know better says much worse things about society than outright malicious racism.
Speaking of which:
Oof. So, yeah, I heard about this and thought just the idea of “Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman costume” was appalling enough. I was definitely not expecting shoe polish blackface. As internet detectives dug up, the two dudes in the picture are some real lameasses. On top of one man’s arrests for auto theft, the other employed the “what about white pride” point in a tirade against a Black woman’s t-shirt.
In the comments for news on these costumes comes my least favorite racism defense, which is “If Black people did it you wouldn’t be so up-in-arms!” This is of course a dumb thing to say. Unfortunately, it’s also an obvious and reliable response. Discussion on any of these costumes is invariably batted at with “it’s just a costume,” “it’s for fun,” “it’s Halloween,” or “you wouldn’t be mad if a Black person dressed up like Spiderman!!”
This attitude is applied pretty often to objections over racist language or conduct, but what’s troubling me is why these people take Halloween as an opportunity to be racist. What is it about the holiday that makes people feel safe in playing out crazy Jim Crow-era shit?
Some of the costumes, such as many of this year’s big news Racist Costumes, are topical. A great cover for a racist costume! At least, a good line to convince people that you’re not racist, just a fucking idiot. These three people dressed up as Asiana Airlines flight attendants, along with the racist joke names that a local news channel “accidentally” aired.
Even more than the Crazy Eyes costume, I can see how this one could have happened. Another example of Hipster Racism, or the deployment of legit racism to show people that you aren’t actually racist cause you say it with that tone.
As bad as these costumes are, they’re only individual costumes. It’s worth it to call attention to people who are out of line, but basically every time terrible racism gets talked about, the attention is focused on terrible people and not the institutions that enabled them.
Fact is, Halloween is just a racist time of the year. It might even beat out Thanksgiving, in terms of sheer coverage. As fun and accessible as Halloween is, an industry exists that does the heavy lifting (costumes) for a lot of people. And the industry makes a mint off of costumes depicting racial stereotypes. Like I said before, is it so surprising that these people are dressing in messed up costumes?
It’s just new (or in the case of the blackface, resurrected). And I know it’s a fact of life that people are going to get more outraged about new stuff, but it’s not exactly helping anything to just shit on the few Halloweeners whose costumes are shocking enough. The real problem is that we aren’t shocked by business as usual. See: this dumb opinion piece about how calling the Trayvon Martin costume racist is missing the point.
“Let’s focus on the fact that this costume is inappropriate for reasons that have little to do with blackface.”
Abnormal insensitivity is what sets people off, whereas regular good old-fashioned insensitivity is fine by them (at least comparatively). Which is a really bad way to go about things, because abnormal is abnormal. It doesn’t happen every day, it’s not an ingrained attitude or practice. How long are people going to dress up as Asiana flight attendants? Probably just this year. Chinamen, Illegal aliens, and rastas? Like every year.
You know, when it’s Halloween, I usually go for, like, Tintin, or Robin Hood, or a witch? Maybe we should all try going that route again.