A group of students at the Ohio University established the organization “Students Teaching About Racism in Society”, also called STARS, to educate about racism and promoting prevention of racism. Just before Halloween the members of STARS organized a campaign against costumes that imply racial or cultural stereotypes, because they are insulting and offensive. The goal for the members of this campaign was to create discussion about racism and stereotypes and raise awareness. However, instead of just criticizing and promoting awareness of stereotypical Halloween costumes, it should also or first of all be looked at the idea of categorization, and how stereotypes work.

Humans have an urge to make sense of the world around them by putting everything in some kind of order or box, almost like a subconscious need to organize and categorized everything. These categories are a priori condition for rational thoughts, and are only intrinsically good or bad if stereotypes are invoked and then guide our expectations. Unfortunately there are many offensive stereotypes that are all to often used and believed in, such as all Muslims are Terrorists, and STARS was trying to make aware of it as Sarah Williams, the president of STARS said:

“During Halloween, we see offensive costumes. We don’t like it, we don’t appreciate it. We wanted to do a campaign about it saying, ‘Hey, think about this. It’s offensive”

The members of the campaign had good intentions, nevertheless Halloween is a celebrated Holiday, where people dress up as someone they are not, simply for the fun and not because the are trying to insult people of different races. Even though this campaign might have been taken the idea of stereotypes too far, it demonstrated how people tend to not think about their actions and how it might affect other people around them. Supporting the general idea of the campaign Ryan Lombardi said:

“I think it’s a clean way of raising awareness of how the costumes you choose might be offensive. In many cases, students aren’t doing it maliciously, but they might not realize the consequences of their actions on others.”

Clearly some Halloween costumes can be offensive for people of different races, however we should not forget that it is a holiday mostly for children, with the main focus of wearing a costume and not being offensive.




One response

  1. Maybe instead of being concerned with the implications that Halloween costumes have on the minorities and stereotyped races in our society, the culture and the news should focus on more pressing matters such as stereotyping and hate crimes on all days besides Halloween. I am sure that “egging” a house is a familiar activity on may engage in on Halloween. As is TP-ing a house. Seeing enough shows and reading enough books, I assume it is a “fun thing to do”. But when THE EXACT SAME THING happens on November 1, it automatically becomes a racial crime. I am not saying that this is bad. Actually I want to know what makes Halloween crimes so special that egging and TP-ing becomes a sort of “rite of passage” of a young kid. What do you think? Should crimes perpetrated on Halloween or in relation to Halloween be more severely punished?