Dressing up on Halloween is a favorite trademark tradition of the holiday, but sometimes these costumes can be offensive. Stick to this list of dos and don’ts to avoid offending an entire community this year.
DON’T do anything involving blackface
Just because Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did it, does not mean it is acceptable or not racist. Blackface, which is when individuals paint their skin black, stems from the mid-19th century when white actors would cover themselves in charcoal and mock the Black community in the United States.
“By distorting the features and culture of African Americans—including their looks, language, dance, deportment and character—white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis,” the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture told CNN.
Big words, simple message—don’t do it.
DO paint your face green
Instead of going as a different race for Halloween try dressing up as DreamWorks’ favorite ogre—Shrek. The big green ogre made his debut in the critically-acclaimed 2001 movie, and there are three sequels to pick from if Shrek’s aesthetic in the first movie doesn’t quite meet your standards.
DON’T participate in cultural appropriation
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to those who are of a specific culture or religion, but for those out there who aren’t—don’t wear any cultural or religious clothing or headwear for Halloween this year. To be more specific, do not wear indigenous headdresses or any form of religious headscarves.
“We need to treat people with the dignity that they deserve, the way we want to be treated,” Executive Director of Women, Action and the Media Jamia Wilson told Refinery29. “If it’s something that [you] have the privilege to wear safely, where others would be persecuted if they wore it, do not wear it.”
Dressing up for Halloween is a good opportunity to push your own boundaries in a safe and fun way—not to mock, degrade or otherwise imitate marginalized communities.
DO put anything else on your head
Literally anything else. Backwards baseball caps, explorer hats, daisy chains and flower crowns, those hats that have umbrellas on them, cat ears, colorful wigs, Jughead beanies, masquerade masks, glasses with windshield wipers, newspaper hats, your middle school headband, berets, or top hats. Even fedoras are fine.
DON’T dress up as a mentally ill person
There’s still a big stigma around mental illness, and encouraging the negative stereotype surrounding mental health can be pretty detrimental. Several costume companies, including ASDA in 2013, have manufactured and sold costumes labeled something such as “mental patient fancy dress.” These costumes are typically covered in blood and encourage the idea that people with mental illnesses are dangerous.
DO go as a doctor, zombie or anything non-offensive
Instead of dressing up as any of these racist, culturally appropriating or stereotype-encouraging costumes for Halloween, try going as a zombie or a doctor. Use common sense—even a cheerleader is better than blackface or someone with a mental illness.