This is one of those columns that shouldn’t ever have to be written.
Unfortunately, we happen to live in a disgustingly racist and oppressive world. Look no further than the recent incident at a high school in New York where white students performed a “satirical reenactment” of Chris Brown beating Rihanna in blackface at a pep rally for evidence.
Racism, sexism and violence; they certainly had the whole spectrum of evil covered. Where were the parents?
But if history proves us right, this month will be filled with many more grotesque reminders of oppression, privilege and discrimination.
Why? Because it’s Halloween!
It’s that time of year where the ever-so-slightly hidden racism of the masses blows up into plain sight, with countless numbers of privileged people dressing up as Arab terrorists, black gangstas and Romanian gypsies.
The remarkably obvious reasons for why this is incredibly offensive and problematic seem to be forgotten at this time of year. So let’s cut to the chase here. Dressing up as a caricature of an economically and socially oppressed culture proliferates unfair (and usually false) stereotypes and reinforces hierarchies of race, class and gender.
Many defend the festivities as “fun” or “satirical.” It’s not: it’s just racist.
In Canada, this is nowhere more apparent than in the shockingly popular “Indian” costume: that is, an Aboriginal “chief” or “princess” complete with moccasins, feathers, face paint and a bow and arrow.
Unfortunately, those that don the cheap regalia don’t actually consider the significance of the act, ignoring a lengthy history of colonialism, genocide, sexual assault and systematic poverty that has decimated Aboriginal communities and culture.
One would suppose that such a history should serve as a deterrent for white people taking yet another opportunity to reduce the cultures of the 600 different First Nations bands into an empty stereotype, but that’s how white privilege and colonialism tends to operate: we decimate a people and misappropriate its traditions.
This sort of ignorance only perpetuates systemic oppression. And it needs to stop.
So this Halloween, take a few minutes while putting on your costume to consider your own privilege. Think about what your clothing represents and if it adds to systemic oppression. It’s not all about you.