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Racist Halloween Costumes {Podcast}

racist Halloween costumesImage Credit: Flickr / themaccraic-david

racist Halloween costumes

Racist Halloween Costumes

Yesterday, I was listening to Michelle’s podcast for Is That Your Child? and she brought up a really interesting topic.  A little debate spurred up, or I could say that it was more of a discussion about why or why not certain costumes could be construed as offensive and/or racist.  You can read more at about these racist Halloween costumes on ColorLines. I was asked if someone wearing a “cholo” costume would be offensive and of course, my answer is ‘yes’.  It may not be offensive to everyone, but there is definitely a good-sized portion of the Latino community that wouldn’t appreciate it and I count myself as a member of that majority.

In this podcast, my husband and I get a bit fired up as we go into detail about why certain costumes are offensive and Ricardo gives some details about his personal experiences, although I guarantee…he has a lot more to share.

Please feel free to weigh in below, in the comments, and let us know where you stand on the issue.  Thanks for listening.

Listen to the podcast about racist Halloween costumes:


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  • Glenn Robinson
    October 29, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    My wife said that I would be offensive in a Cholo costume. 

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      October 30, 2011 at 12:53 am

      I think most would find it offensive…very bad memories attached and a lot of hate speech. Thanks for sharing.

  • Glenn Robinson
    October 29, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    One of the costumes I saw tonight was a nun. I was wondering how nuns feel when they see that. 

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      October 30, 2011 at 1:18 am

      It depends, but I know that some nuns do find it very offensive because their profession is often mocked…not to mention their faith.  Most nuns don't wear a habit and I think some of that stems from the mocking that ensues when one does.

  • Jen Marshall Duncan
    October 30, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Chantilly, you and Ricardo make some very good points–especially about how people of color cannot take off their skin, the "costume" society sees them in. My husband and I also talked about this issue after Michelle's podcast and he does not speak for all black folks, but has just about the opposite point of view of you and Ricardo–he is not offended at all by anyone's choice of costumes. He thinks they may be immature and stupid, but not offensive. He even said that KKK costumes wouldn't offend him! They would worry him, "someone's going to get beat up!" but he believes in freedom of expression for all–even those who are racist and misguided. I personally lean more towards the point of view of you and Ricardo–I can't imagine anyone being disrespectful enough to dress up like a dayworker or to act drunk and ask where to find tacos! That story of Ricardo's left me flabbergasted! Such ignorance still amazes me, even though I see it time and time again. 

    The problem I have is that I don't think this is a totally black and white issue; there are areas of grey in between. For example, when people dress in cultural costumes out of respect for a culture–not necessarily in mockery or disrespect. My children all took Aikido at a martial arts dojo. They learned Japanese language, customs, and culture. At Halloween, my Lilli wanted to wear a kimono and be what she called a "Japanese princess" and my son wanted to be a ninja. These are two kids of color who have studied Japanese culture and wanted to pay homage to it by dressing as the heroes they'd studied from the Samurai era. I don't see that as the same thing Ricardo was talking about. Do you?  When I think about that, I think about Steve Riley's comment that maybe it's not the costume you put on, but what you do in the costume, how you behave when you're wearing the costume that matters. My husband also wondered if things change if it is a black man wearing a sombrero, or an Asian-American dressed in hip hop clothes. He started thinking about cultural appropriation. He saw two Japanese college students wearing hip hop clothes yesterday and spent a minute thinking about whether or not that was different than white kids wearing hip hop clothes, and if so–why?Very interesting convo and great podcast! It is great to hear your voices and think about all of the excellent points you both raise.

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      October 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      Also, I just wanted to point out, that dressing up in a Kimono for a martial arts princess is much different then going the full nine to dress up as a Geisha…which would be very offensive to many…especially when Asian women are still pursued as "exotic" sexual objects and mail order brides.  I totally get what you mean, but just wanted to point this out for other readers.

    • Chantilly Patiño
      October 30, 2011 at 8:24 pm

      Jen, thanks for the detailed comment.  :)  About freedom of speech, I do agree, but at the same time…freedom of speech isn’t quite free when people of color are more often silenced.  It’s important that statements about the offensiveness of certain issues (i.e. Halloween costumes) are valued equally to the voices of those who claim their right to wear the costumes.  Because the KKK was responsible for exterminating so many people of color, it’s a costume that really shouldn’t be worn.  Obviously, we have no control over what people choose to wear, but it is very disheartening to know that so many put the complaints of people of color aside in favor of their own desire to “shock” people or have a laugh.

      I definitely don’t think this is only a black and white issue, people of color do participate in mocking each other and also wear these costumes.  The reason why I talk about whites over all others is because of the privilege and power that they possess…and our history of dominating people of color.  We have a far greater responsibility because our actions hold a historic and systematic connections to the disparagement of people of color.  I also think that many whites still live in segregated societies that prevent us from having a full understanding of why these actions are offensive and play into racism.  It’s not that only whites do it, but that whites do it on a much larger scale, with little understanding and as a white individual, I feel the need to address it.  Intra-racism is something that I would definitely like to talk about more though!  ;)

      I get what you mean about honoring individuals and I agree…it is different.  Intent is DEFINITELY a big factor, but some costumes will never be acceptable, no matter the intent…and those are the ones that we’re talking about here…those that disparage.  My daughter also wore a Kimono last year for Halloween and it was a choice that I made because she also loves martial arts and wanted to be a princess.  Japanese culture is closer to my heart, since my mother was a missionary there, and I wanted to express that, so I chose a Kimono.  Very proud to see my daughter in it and especially proud that I made it from scratch at home.  :)  Definitely much different to dress up as something you admire, vs. mocking or disparaging.

      About the Japanese individuals in hip hop clothes, I wasn’t sure if you meant a costume or general wear, but hip hop is practically idolized in Japan.  They actually have pop-locking conferences and competitions, rap battles, etc.  Very big since the 1990s.  Maybe that has something to do with it?  Not sure…but I totally agree with you…intent is the most important factor and cultural sensitivity is a must!

      Thank you for all the comments and great conversation!!

      • Jen Marshall Duncan
        October 31, 2011 at 1:14 am

        This is a really great conversation! Thanks for sharing in the chat room and continuing here!

  • Chantilly Patiño
    October 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Also, I just wanted to point out, that dressing up in a Kimono for a martial arts princess is much different then going the full nine to dress up as a concubine…which would be very offensive to many…especially when Asian women are still pursued as “exotic” sexual objects and mail order brides.  I totally get what you mean, but just wanted to point this out for other readers.