It’s hard to keep track of how many times these words have been written: “Please, no blackface.”
Yet it keeps happening, again and again.
As Halloween approaches, offensive costumes are coming out in full force, populating social media and turning ill-informed revelers into objects of ridicule.
An elementary school teacher from Decatur, Alabama, apologized for the “error in judgment” in deciding to darken his face for his Kanye West costume at a friend’s party last weekend. The photo spread after his wife, dressed as Kim Kardashian, posted it on her Facebook page.
On Tuesday, a photo surfaced on Twitter of a girl in blackface, body paint, butt padding and a leopard bodysuit for her take on Nicki Minaj. She was standing next to someone dressed as rapper Drake. The photo was deleted, but not before it was picked up by blogs and websites including Gawker, which shared it in a post titled, “Racist Halloween Celebrations Kick Off With Blackface Nicki Minaj Costume.”
Also on Tuesday, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee sent letters to Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Sears Marketplace, asking the retailers to remove “Israeli Soldier Kids Costume” and “Sheik Fagin Nose,” billed as “perfect for an Arab Sheik.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Walmart, eBay and Sears had pulled the offending products from their website. The retailers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Celebrities, politicians and newsmakers are popular fodder for Halloween costumes, but they can be tasteless if done the wrong way.
To mimic Minaj, maybe pick one of her elaborate Video Music Awards get-ups to recreate, rather than opting for body paint? With the right accessories – sunglasses, gold chains, goatee, “Kanye for President” sign – Yeezus can be achieved without appropriating racist tropes from another era.
Along those lines, public service campaigns in previous years have tried to discourage the practice of using cultural stereotypes and marginalized groups as costumes. Despite those efforts, ISIS soldier and suicide bomber continue to be popular choices, along with sexy geisha, Mexican mariachi and Indian princess.
This year, several retailers began offering Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costumes featuring variations of the ensemble worn by the transgender trailblazer for her iconic Vanity Fair cover. Critics say the costume mocks the transgender community and promotes transphobia by reducing Jenner to a stereotype.
Sexy “Anna Rexia” is another recurring costume that some wish would go away. One of those people is anorexia survivor Jessi Davin, who posted images of herself in the hospital in a blog post about the “real monstrous face” of “Anna Rexia.”
“I almost died from this. I know it’s supposed to be funny and s**t and yeah I get that, but seriously. THIS IS NOT FUNNY. Anorexia is nothing to party about or laugh at. It’s real, it’s deadly, and should not be marketed as a slutty outfit,” she said.
“Want to dress as ‘Anna Rexia’? Just go as a Vampire, or a Zombie. Because 1/3 of us are dead.”
“Sexy Cecil the lion” and “lion killer dentist” are new offerings for the 2015 Halloween season, reflecting another popular theme: news and controversies. Like last year’s Ebola and Ray Rice costume crazes, using tragic news events as fodder for Halloween costumes is nothing new, but it’s often an insensitive choice.
So, let’s try it again: No blackface (or whiteface, for that matter), and perhaps take a pass when it comes to costumes inspired by recent painful events.