Halloween: the chance, once a year, to pretend to be someone you’re not. I like to think Halloween costumes say a lot about a person. They also say a lot about what we think but never say.
Take this, for instance:
I saw a picture recently of friends of friends of friends dressed up for Halloween. They were supposed to be homeless, complete with “Will Work for Food” signs, tattered jeans, and worn out flannel. Similarly, I see people every year wearing sombreros and telling people their costume is “A Mexican.” Or folks who stick some feathers in their braid and throw on a pair of moccasins to be “An Indian.”
Halloween apparently is not only a time to “be someone else” for a day (or two, or three, depending on how many times you celebrate), it’s time to let our collective, offensive, racist American id run wild because it’s hopped up on too many Reese’s peanut butter pumpkins and Four Loko. Do I think these people mean to be offensive? No, likely not. Really they just want to shotgun some Busch Lights and hook up with the cute guy in the “Where’s Waldo?” costume. Being an historical figure (who is, perhaps, Native American or Mexican/Latino) would be one thing, but to say “I’m (ethnic stereotype – regardless of negative, neutral, or positive implications)!” is short-sighted, foolish, and–well–racist.
There’s a certain responsibility that comes along with picking and putting on a costume; any costume you wear inevitably says something about you and your attitude toward other people. Choosing insensitive costumes matters. Just ask the employees of Steven J. Baum’s firm in Buffalo, New York. These geniuses thought that it was a good idea to dress up as homeless people and create fake sections of foreclosed homes at their office Halloween party. Are you outraged? Yes, you likely are. And so should you be. At the same time, however, these people dressing up as homeless people for Halloween is not much, if any, worse than when people who aren’t legal actors in the foreclosure crisis do it.
This Halloween, dress up. Go out. Drink Four Loko to your little heart’s content, and stuff your face with Kit Kats, Snickers, Reese’s pumpkins, and everything in between. Just try not to be your own id.