Halloween centers around a favorite holiday tradition: trick-or-treating! Homemade costumes, pumpkin carving, scary stories, games and haunted attractions, the list goes on and on. Halloween surfaces cherished memories in all of us. It’s a can’t miss holiday celebrated by many in the U.S. and beyond.
Yet, most important and unique to Halloween festivities and tradition is its ability to rally and unify communities. Most holidays’, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, are celebrated within the home, surrounded by family and relatives. Yet, Halloween is celebrated in the community, requiring community wide engagement to host and participate in festivities and gift giving: trick-or-treating for all!
Halloween is meant to include, engage and celebrate.
Sadly, this mentality seems to be lost on many. Costumes are transforming from traditional ghosts and goblins, to hurtful misrepresentations of race, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation and culture. Instead of unifying in celebration, why are we so actively creating divides?
In light of recent NBC controversy, it is important to consider what is, and what is not, an appropriate Halloween costume. Sadly, it’s increasingly clear that many in society have lost sight of the true meaning of Halloween. The holiday originated with people dressing in costume to ward off evil, like ghosts and witches, yet it has transformed into a day that celebrates all kinds of creative self-expression (both positive and hurtful). It is important to acknowledge the ways in which this self-expression has taken wrongful turns. Some in our society are actively choosing to marginalize and oppress, dehumanize inherent qualities in others, under the guise of self-expression-- all wrong whether serious or to poke fun.
It really comes down to respect; respecting one’s dignity, one’s worth, and one’s personal narrative. And, respect should never be hard to understand— for anyone. Even if you are of a background that hasn’t faced recent attack, oppression, or discrimination, respect is a universal principle. Halloween does provide an opportunity to imagine— a time for creative imagination and dress. So start imagining how you would feel if someone dressed like you? Would their costume do you, all parts of you, justice…? What could be missed?
So what is OK to wear this Halloween?
Here are some resources to consider before picking a costume:
Bottom line is: Trust your gut. If there’s even a question, or a feeling of uneasiness, it’s not okay. A good rule of thumb may be, when you start dressing up in something your neighbor might wear everyday, you are crossing a line of respect.
Posters at the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham, N.H., say it best:
“You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life.”
Let’s get back to the real traditions of Halloween. Let’s work together to reinvigorate the community spirit and celebrations that have made Halloween a cherished holiday for so long…