The largest US Hispanic civil rights group’s national board voted unanimously Friday to urge major manufacturers and retailers to stop selling costumes based on racial stereotypes.
The League of United Latin American Citizens will contact companies – including Amazon and Party City – that make or sell “so-called costumes based on race-based stereotypes which feed into prejudice against Latinos” and demand they “immediately remove these items from their inventory list,” LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides told CNN in a statement.
“This line of merchandise should be banned because it fuels the growing anti-immigrant resentment in our country triggering such violence as the mass shooting in El Paso where the suspect admitted his hatred against Mexicans,” she said, referring to the August massacre that left 22 people dead at the hand of a suspect who police allege wrote an anti-immigrant document espousing white nationalist and racist views.
“There is no place for profiting from racial stereotypes and demeaning 58 million Latinos who are a vital part of this country,” Benavides said.
The LULAC vote was taken a day after CNN asked the group to respond to photos of costumes sold by Party City, Spirit Halloween, Rubie’s Costume Company and on Amazon. CNN affiliate KRQE had earlier reported on shoppers’ reaction to a “Mexican Man” costume for sale at a Spirit Halloween store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The vendors are among the nation’s largest or claim to command a major share of the Halloween market.
“Selling and dressing up in these costumes is just this – it’s racist and unacceptable,” Benavides told CNN in an earlier statement. “These costumes only further the degrading nature of using these stereotypes to dehumanize a human being of another race.”
Party City, responding before the LULAC vote to CNN’s inquiry about a “Hey Amigo Mexican Costume” on its website, will remove the product from its inventory, adding that it was being sold “online only and has been discontinued,” a company spokesperson told CNN in a statement.
The company said it was in the process of removing it from its website. A CNN review of the site confirms the item has been removed.
“As the leader in Halloween, Party City has costumes for all types of Halloween customers and nothing we carry is meant to be offensive,” the statement said.
Party City did not immediately respond to CNN’s later requests for comment about an “Adult Tequila Bandito Costume” for sale on its website and the LULAC vote.
Amazon, Rubie’s Costume Company, Fun World and Spirit Halloween did not immediately respond to CNN’s inquiries about Mexican-themed costumes for sale at their online sites or to a later request for response to LULAC’s action.
Rubie’s sells a costume with rainbow-hued poncho shirt, sombrero and a bandolier for shot glasses. The company sells the same outfit on Amazon, where it has the advertising line, “You will be everyone’s amigo when you come in this instant bartender kit.”
Amazon also offers a “Little Mexican Amigo Toddler Costume” by vendor Fun World that includes a tiny, black mustache and large sombrero. In a review below the Amazon listing, one person claims to have reported the costume to Amazon and labeled it as “highly inappropriate!!!” in 2016. Another reviewer, almost a year earlier, also pushed for the costume to be taken down, the site record shows.
Spirit Halloween’s “Adult Mexican Man Costume” comes with a “vibrantly striped poncho with hysterical black mustache,” according to the product description, which pitches the outfit as a way to “salsa on into Halloween.”
Outrage over similar costumes sold by Spirit Halloween dates to at least October 2009, when the East Bay Times reported on Latino residents of that California community being upset about it.
“It’s incredibly offensive,” Carlos Plazola told the newspaper. “I can’t imagine them reducing any other culture to a costume like that and calling it by that ethnic name. Reducing a culture to such a stereotype is harmful and insulting. I can’t imagine a Chinese man or black man being put out there and it being OK.”