We don’t know who needs to see this in the year 2020, but people are still wearing racist, insensitive, and culturally appropriated Halloween costumes and it needs to stop. It’s not cool to mock and demean someone’s culture by wearing a caricature of it. As a rule of thumb, if it’s a stereotype of something in real life it’s a no-go. Avoid dressing up as religious figures as people of those religions will most likely take offense. If you do go as a specific person, avoid figures of religious or cultural significance to a particular group to which you do not belong. So, the Pope is probably not smart.
We don’t know why this keeps happening, but if you go as a specific person, that person should not have committed genocide, mass murder, heinous crimes, or a terrorist attack. An Osama Bin Laden costume is seriously messed up. Unless you’re painting your skin green for an alien costume or blue to be a smurf, there’s generally no good excuse for altering your skin tone. If you’re worried that your costume might be potentially racist, do some research. Better yet, avoid the possibility of shame and embarrassment by choosing something not so controversial. Here are 25 offensive Halloween costumes that you most definitely should not wear. As you might imagine, these are pretty infuriating so consider yourself trigger warned.
“Disgusted and appalled!” the person who found this costume wrote. “How the ???? is this still a thing in 2020? Found this in between a squirrel costume, and a cactus costume, you know, silly things to actually be for Halloween. Who would think that such a racist caricature of a Mexican man was a great idea for a costume? My culture isn’t some plaything to be bought, and worn for your amusement for one night. The Sombrero and Serape are beautiful aspects of my people and is not something to be mocked.”
“Found an original Collegeville ‘Dragon Lady’ costume yesterday,” the individual who stumbled on this costume wrote. “This stereotype cast Asian women as mysterious deceitful and domineering, often enslaving and trafficking whites at opium dens.”
This costume was originally manufactured in the sixties. It was offensive then and 60 years later, it’s even worse. Don’t wear a stereotype, people!
Good people often make poor decisions because of a lack of education and empathy. “They blatantly take certain aspects of our culture, race, religion, and use it for their advantage and ignore the people living it,” Glory Ames, co-president of the American Indian Student Association at Minnesota State University Moorhead told the Washington Post.
“You might think that you’re throwing a nod to a fun character, but you’re actually taking a culture to which you don’t belong and turning it into a whimsical costume,” Madeleine Aggeler wrote for Bustle. “And without knowing the full sordid history behind such stories, your costume could be at most violent and at least painfully ignorant.”
“Even after ten years in the field of Roma representation and rights, I sometimes wonder: How is it possible to get away with stereotyping the Roma people in such a disparaging way?” Cristiana Grigore wrote for Newsweek. She urges people and journalists, in particular, to call out cultural appropriation when they see it. “It takes access to a respected place within mainstream society for Roma and our allies to see that we Roma are still represented by grotesque or exotic Gypsy imagery.”
“Why are ‘the other’ and ‘the exotic’ such sources of enjoyment and pleasure that they’ve become Halloween staples?” Washington State University’s David Leonard said. “What does it tell us,” he asks, “that amid all these scary things of ghosts and witches, we also have all these racialized costumes?”
Again, the religious and cultural traditions of a group of people have no place in a Halloween costume. Just because marketers put the word “sexy” in front of the name of a costume doesn’t make them less offensive. In fact, the opposite is true.
All of This
“Pharaohs, Cleopatra costumes, Nefertiti costumes, anks, etc. is not for white people to wear [sic].” a writer for Bustle notes. “The Ancient Egyptians were basically the only Black, African civilization given any exposure or respect, and even then their blackness is systemically denied.”
Just because a costume is marketed as being from a movie, in this case, Inglourious Basterds, does not make it any less offensive. You’re still dressed as a Nazi if you put on this costume. Some people will argue, “No, this isn’t offensive because I’m so-and-so from the movie and not an actual Nazi.” At the end of the day, you’re dressed as a Nazi which means to most people that you don’t care about the heinous crimes they committed. Gross.
Adolf Hitler is “scary” but not in a way that’s suitable for Halloween. He is a real-life monster who thrust the world into a bloody war and he oversaw the systematic killing of millions of Jews. It’s no laughing matter and you should not dress up as him or else you’ll look like a complete toad.
The term “Voodoo” itself is offensive to some with many preferring the alternative term, Vodou. These “voodoo priests” and “priestess” costumes are offensive as they often equate “black magic” and Vodou. That’s not too great for practitioners of the religion who see these costumes as mocking their spirituality, traditions, and beliefs.
Reader, our jaw dropped when we saw this one. “Who would buy this for their child?” the person who found this terrible costume wrote. This is the costume equivalent of the movie, The Help. This is an insult to just about all people, somehow. Women, black women, Black people, working-class people, and actually the concept of fashion should all be outraged.
Gaelic men and boys have been wearing kilts in the Highlands of Scotland since the 16th century. They are made from tartan fabric and symbolize Celtic or Gaelic culture. They’re not funny or novel. That’s someone’s culture’s traditional clothing.
How did this get made? Who thought it would be a good idea to create a costume of a stereotype of a homeless person? Thousands of people slip into poverty and homelessness every year. And now, with the economic downturn caused by an inadequate response to COVID-19, it’s even harder for folks to get by. Don’t insult someone’s suffering with a costume that caricatures their pain.
A “China Man”
Again, a cultural stereotype does not a costume make. Costumes of “men from the Orient” were big in the US starting in the 1920s. Hollywood began to crank out movies that vilified Asian men and women and academics now refer to them as Yellow Peril Films. The demand for racist costumes surged at the time. And, apparently, are still being made today.
A burqa, hijab, or turban does not belong on your body on Halloween if you don’t wear one year-round. These coverings are important religious, cultural, and traditional symbols that shouldn’t be ridiculed.
A “Sexy Soldier”
“Sexy soldiers” and civilians in military fatigues are not too nice for the people who served our country. Imagine risking your life and then going to a Halloween party and seeing a costume that belittles that sacrifice. If you want to protest a war, fine! But, do not insult members of the military with your silly costumes. It’s not a game for them.
Unless you’re prepared to talk at length about criminal justice reform, do not wear a prison jumpsuit. Whether you’ve been to prison or not depends a lot on class, race, and privilege. Not everyone has had a fair shake. If you’re out wearing a prison jumpsuit on Halloween, you’re essentially saying that you don’t care.
We facepalmed so hard when we saw this. Are you exhausted yet? Do not wear a crude “terrorist” costume on Halloween. Costumes that equate clothing associated with Middle Eastern culture as “terrorist” outfits perpetuate disparaging stereotypes. They often include items that imply violence, ultimately reducing a diverse group of people down to a single, stereotypical monolith.
In a piece titled “All You Know About Ninjas Is Wrong,” Brian Ashcraft argues that Japanese ninjas were more akin to intelligence professionals like you’d find at the CIA than actual assassins. “Those black suits. Those weapons. Martial arts. The image of the ninja is rooted more in fiction than fact. Everything you think you know is probably more ‘wrong’ than ‘right,'” he argues. So, don’t be wrong!
“To this day we are still fighting to tell our own stories because minstrelsy is the origination of our cinematic history before we ever had the chance to represent ourselves,” the person who shared this image writes. The image is a still from Birth of a Nation, a horrid movie about the rise of the KKK. In the film, white actors wear blackface and act as offensive as possible. Blackface is a disgusting, enraging, hideous, and racist practice that some people still think is perfectly fine. It’s not. It’s never okay.
COVID-19 is scary, but that doesn’t mean you should make light of it with a costume. You’re wearing a costume that represents a cause of death for 222,000 and counting people in the US and over a million worldwide. It’s not cute or cheeky. It’s just sad.
“People need to understand that when they are wearing that calavera, that it’s not just a mask or something to decorate their face with,” Yreina Cervantez, a Chicano/a studies professor at California State University, Northridge, told the Inquisitr. “What they are wearing is the symbolism of that eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth.”
So, unless you were raised in Mexican culture, you should avoid these costumes as you probably have no idea the significance they hold for others.
A “Confederate Soldier”
We didn’t think we needed to say this, but it’s America in 2020, so… Do not dress as a soldier of the confederate army. They fought to uphold slavery and broke our country. They also lost the Civil War. If you wear a costume to “honor” them, you’re really just a loser.
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Who does this? Who actually dresses up as a clansman for Halloween? The KKK is a domestic terrorist organization that actively hates, terrorizes, and sews divisions in our country. They’re not a thing of the past. By wearing their dumb sheet-costumes, you’re endorsing their mission which is hate. Yes, a clansman is scary. No, it’s never okay. Don’t spread their hideousness with this costume.
Have you lost faith in your fellow humans? Take a breath. Now, the moral of these costumes is to not wear racist, hateful, offensive, and downright boring costumes. If you have to ask yourself if a costume is potentially racist, chances are it’s not a good idea. That’s true in general.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 “Mexican Man”
- 2 “Dragon Lady”
- 3 Appropriated Regalia
- 4 “Pocahontas”
- 5 A “Gypsy”
- 6 A “Geisha”
- 7 “Egyptian Goddess”
- 8 All of This
- 9 Nazis
- 10 Hitler
- 11 “Voodoo Priest”
- 12 “Downstairs Maid”
- 13 A “Kiltsman”
- 14 A “Hobo”
- 15 A “China Man”
- 16 A “Muslim”
- 17 A “Sexy Soldier”
- 18 A “Prisoner”
- 19 A “Terrorist”
- 20 A “Ninja”
- 21 Blackface
- 22 Coronavirus
- 23 “Calaveras”
- 24 A “Confederate Soldier”
- 25 A “Clansman”
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