Thursday, October 6, 2016

That one time I was accidentally racist....

Just double-checking that your Obama costume will involve a mask and not shoe polish

With Halloween coming up, the social medias start to ramp up with articles and videos reminding everyone that cultural appropriation during Halloween (and really any time of year) is not cool. Now this is a very controversial topic, because there's the camp that thinks that it isn't a big deal/people are too PC and the camp that finds it offensive. Personally I'm in second group, I think things perpetuate stereotypes are offensive and need to stop, especially blackface which is one of the most offensive of them all.

I think a lot of the people who don't see what the big deal is, aren't racist themselves, but uneducated in the history of cultural appropriation and oppression. I myself was guilty of this once, when one Halloween I did my own version of blackface. Now this was waaaaaayyyyy back in the early/mid-90's, not long after the movie Sister Act has been released.

Sister Act movie poster

I fell in love with the movie, the comedy and the music spoke to my inner thespian. So for Halloween I thought it would be cool to be Sister Mary Clarence. So I got a cheap nun's habit costume, and proceeded to use dark makeup to make me look more like Whoopi. In my mind, I wanted to make sure people knew I was Sister Mary Clarence, not just any old nun. At the time I was 9-10 years old, so really too young to understand I was in the wrong and while out trick-or-treating people knew exactly who I was and approved so to me, I was successful. It wasn't till YEARS later that I realized what I had done was essentially a form of blackface and totally not cool.

Of course these days I wouldn't think of doing blackface or anything else that would perpetuate a negative stereotype of a culture (which is really where the offence comes from). So while as a society we can seem to be uber-sensitive and PC these days, it doesn't hurt to give your Halloween costume choice a second or third thought.

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