Remember when Halloween was just about getting into a toasty costume and getting loads of free candy while hanging out with your friends? Now it's all about fat-shaming moms, horribly misguided costume shop arrangements, and celebrity PR disasters. Although the sexist vs. empowering slutty female costume debate lives on, one debate you definitely should not entertain is whether or not white people should treat ethnicity as a costume.
For those of you still wondering whether you should be dressing up in blackface this year, here's a helpful chart designed by Marquita Thomas. It sounds pretty simple, but somehow this very simple message never seems to get through.
Black face wasn't just invented to dehumanize and humiliate black people, it was used a means of repression. So when you're dressing up in blackface, you're not just appropriating someone else's culture, you're reproducing centuries of black oppression. That's why nobody gives a rat's butt about what your intention was. Instead of spending all your time justifying yourself, focus your energy on trying to understand why blackface is alluring to you. Because it's "exotic"? Because it's fun? As Camille Hayes explains in her piece on Bitch, it's important to reflect on how dressing up as different ethnicities has become a conveninent form of escape, one that erases a painful past genocide, slaver and mass oppression:
"But take a moment to consider why wearing blackface, or appropriating any ethnic identity, is so alluring. People want to feel the freedom of being someone else, existing in a magical space where real-life roles don't matter and history is suspended. But our history was bloody and the damage it caused is still playing out today, so suspending that reality, even for a night, is a hazardous game."
If if you're still iching to put on that geisha, aboriginal or blackface costume, please consider this concise (and frankly entertaining) explanation of why you really need to stop doing that.
Unless you're able to say "it was just genocide!" out loud, then please don't do it. Stop treating ethnicity as a costume.
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