When that whole Rachel Dolezal thing happened over the summer the first thing I thought was, “Oh, Lord. She is going to be one of the hottest Halloween costumes this year. Mark my words.” And sure enough, as if on cue, here comes Miss Kelly Osbourne with a parody of herself on Instagram, stylized as Dolezal. The image left a bitter taste in people’s mouths. They were outraged, and the whole thing resulted in Osborne quitting Fashion Police.
Whether or not you go as Dolezal this Halloween, somebody somewhere in America is going to make headlines on a national website or blog for a costume that broaches or is actually blackface, a costume that comes a little bit too close to cultural appropriation, a costume that is beyond offensive.
Put down the black face. Do not buy that Native American headdress. Just say “no” to every single “ghetto” party you have been invited to.
I don’t know why people don’t understand that blackface is offensive and has always been offensive. More to the point, one of the dominant privileges of whiteness is that you can “put on” other people’s colors, clothes and hair styles without having to deal with all the racism and the exhaustion of explaining to people why it’s offensive. When you put on blackface you get to take a shower, pull that wig cap off and pow: you’re white again.
Other people’s cultures are not a costume.
Because it’s Halloween we think we can get away with anything because the rules and laws of everyday life have been put on hold for a single night of candy, drinks and costumed hook ups. The irony in all this is that one Halloween I went as Lenny Kravitz, with my chest out, a bunch of necklaces on, skinny jeans. I thought I was really working it. But I got called “faggot” several times that night, on a day when it’s supposed to be “OK” to dress like other people and make a fool of yourself. And yet I saw several guys in blackface that night, all laughing about it and having a good time by the looks of it. So they get to be black, which they’re not, and I don’t get to be a faggot, which I am?
I guess the real issue is isn’t it possible to go as something non-ethnic on Halloween? A musical instrument! A cartoon character! You could go as Netflix and chill! You can even still be Olivia Pope without making your skin darker! Be creative.
Before you step out of the house this weekend stop and think about what it is that makes you want to “put on” another culture, even if only for a couple hours. Is it because you find it funny or amusing? If so, you should have a think about what exactly is so funny or Instagrammable about pretending to be black for 5 hours.