Halloween: the holiday that invites us all to play a rousing game of Bad Decision Dress-Up. Not only do we have a bevy of people wearing things that give light to body parts they would never display on a normal day, we also have too many white people donning blackface. In fact, one person in blackface is a person too many.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Snow White for Halloween. Snow White, as you well know, is described as having “skin as white as the snow.” But this little black girl wanted to be the princess she’d seen on the screen and in her books so many times. Did my mother buy make-up to paint my face white? Of course not! She made a Snow White costume fashioned after what the Princess wore in my storybooks, pressed and styled my hair like the hers, handed me a wax apple, and took me trick or treating.
When a black person dresses up as a white person, they don’t feel it’s necessary to change their skin color. Even if a black person decided to paint themselves pale, whiteface does not have the painful historic baggage that blackface totes around.
Every single year, without fail, someone makes the horrible decision to leave the house in blackface. Every single year, there is a collective sigh followed by a boisterous negative reaction, after which we think white people at large must have learned their lesson. Right? Wrong. Just when you think you've seen it all, a pair of full grown adults walk out proudly in Ray Rice and Janay Palmer costume. And we start all over again. (h/t Gawker)
So before we enter this year's official Halloweekend, do us all a favor and take the following steps to decide whether your planned costume is offensive:
1) Is the premise of your costume degrading to minorities and/or women?
2) Would your minority friend(s) support it?
3) Are you going to beg your friends not to Instagram you in your costume for fear of backlash?
4) Will your mother have more than the amount of skin you're showing to fuss with you about?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, think of something else. I hear Sexy Ebola Nurse is available. On second thought, just be a fairy or your favorite football player.
In summary: If you’re going out as the Hulk, by all means, paint yourself green. But friends, If you plan on painting your skin a dark shade in order to take on the look of another human character, just don’t. Use your costume, accessories and other things to bring your character to life. Use your imagination and spare the shame, embarrassment and insensitivity.