This isn’t a plea for you to stop wearing racist costumes. This isn’t an explanation of how a culture is not a costume. This isn’t even an attempt to talk you out of justifying those things for yourself or for other people. This is an acknowledgment of reality. You don’t decide to wear blackface, Pocahottie costumes, cheap imitation war bonnets, or dress up as Mexican gardeners, Asian geishas, or whatever stereotype because you think they’re harmless. You’ve been told that war bonnets are sacred, that Day of The Dead isn’t Halloween, and that these things are unacceptable. You just don’t care.
You know it’s offensive, and you think offending people is funny. There are 9,726,492,745,597,245 articles detailing the ways in which blackface carries a long global history of dehumanizing black people, 9,755,656 articles on the sexual violence faced by NDN women (largely at the hands of white men), and any number of scholarly breakdowns of what harm stereotypes do to the marginalized. You have access to all of those articles. Just like you have access to Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and this site. You see people from all walks talking about the harm, the pain, and you laugh.
You’re such darling little assholes that you take pictures mocking the murder of a child, post them under your real name, and then expect to avoid any real consequences. You’re so convinced you’re right, that your amusement matters more than real people that it comes as a complete shock to you when things go wrong. I’d like to think losing your job, getting suspended from school, or facing massive social censure would teach you a lesson. But it doesn’t, because every year we have the same conversations about the same kinds of racist costumes.
Then again, Halloween is just the concentrated version of a year round phenomenon. Every year, several times a year some “high fashion haute couture” event includes models in blackface. But no actual black people, because they aren’t high fashion. You can find any number of half-naked waifs in knockoff war bonnets, or wearing imitation NDN attire as part of whatever “boho chic” layout. But again, the actual people are not present. Celebs dress up as “Muslim terrorist” and there are guaranteed to be dozens of articles about them, and very few about the real physical threats faced by Muslim and Sikh communities because of that stereotype. You probably have 1,000 jokes about “those people” whether they’re Black, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, whatever. You might be a white kid, or maybe that black friend bigots always claim to have. It doesn’t really matter since bigoted douche bag comes in a host of varieties. Privilege, a lack of social skills and common sense is what you all have in common.
You can’t handle a nuanced depiction of the Other–even on a holiday designed for dress up–and it’s not because they don’t exist. No, it’s because you aren’t capable of seeing people who are not like you as human beings. This isn’t about refusing to be politically correct or how we’re post racial or whatever excuse you might make. You’re a creep. You enjoy it. So, do us all a favor. Be honest about it.
If you’re going to wear these things, stand up and face the consequences without all the whining. It’s not a mistake, you do know better, and you’ve had plenty of examples set for you already.
Don’t write long screeds insisting you’re not racist or arguing that black face is only a problem in America. A quick Google search will tell you that minstrel shows complete with blackface weren’t just happening in the US, that KPOP groups (like the Bubble Sisters who used blackface to get attention) know exactly what they’re invoking, that Zwarte Piet protests happen every year, and yet these denigrating depictions persist. You’re not creative or innovative; in fact you’re just rehashing the same tired bullshit.
You’ve seen celebrities be forced to apologize (but only after they got all that publicity and a host of new bigoted fans), and what you got from that was “Ooh, I bet this can make me famous” because you’re not smart or talented enough to get there any other way. You mistake a few hours of angry tweets and Facebook messages for real fame, but when the fun stops? You start crying, and you expect other people to care about your feelings. To believe whatever weak expressions of remorse you might muster up. After all, you’re a real person, unlike all those folks you were mocking. Your pain matters, unlike the pain of those you hurt. At least that’s what you want us all to think, and when we don’t, you just don’t know what to do. Guess what? You should shut up and take your medicine. Or just shut up.