Admittedly, Halloween is my second favorite holiday after Christmas. I love dressing up, going to "haunted" attractions, and just getting to be someone/thing else for a night. But, every year when autumn creeps in, beyond the excitement, I start to feel a tinge of dread. Racist, sexist, and just overall offensive costumes are as inevitable as pumpkin spice lattes and as someone working in media, I'm usually tasked with covering them in one way or another.
I've done countless stories on people dressed in blackface; as rape survivors; as Indigenous people. I've written earnest tweets condemning such costumes, providing historical context explaining why these getups are so vile.
But this year, I am not taking the bait.
For years, it's been standard to call out every person who decided to don blackface, and dress up as Hitler or Nazis; to explain why costumes that made light of sexual assault weren't funny. The reasoning was, if you shamed these people hard enough publicly, if you chased them off social media, they would learn their lesson and understand why their costume was offensive and in poor taste. But after years of participating in this culture in some form, I've realized it's pointless.
Why? Because chances are people dressing their kids as Hitler and cartoonishly slathering their faces with black paint under the guise of dressing like a Black celebrity already know the costume is wrong. They know the racist history of blackface and minstrel shows. They know the horrors of the Holocaust and the pain the swastika symbol inflicts. They know that for Indigenous people a headdress has cultural significance.
They simply want to get a rise out of what they label as "social justice warriors." For them PC culture has ruined Halloween; liberals have taken the fun out of everything and made everything cultural appropriation. Divisiveness is their game and for too long we've all been unsuspecting players. This is the year I opt out.
Last week, explosive devices were sent to prominent Democratic officials and people who often draw the ire of President Donald Trump. In Kentucky, two elderly Black people were murdered by a white man with a history of racism. On Saturday, 11 people were shot dead inside a Pittsburgh synagogue by a man who yelled "All Jews must die!" and believed in racist conspiracy theories peddled by the president and other conservatives. Violent rhetoric and conspiracy theories don't just live online; hateful words and memes don't stay in the far corners of the internet on obscure message boards. The words go from lines of code on the internet to violence in the real world. A racist meme shared thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter may seem like an inconsequential joke to some, but it's a call to action for a hateful, unhinged person.
In the face of such horrific acts of hate and cruelty, it'd be foolish of me to devote time explaining to a person why their Ku Klux Klan costume is tasteless; why their Nazi soldier uniform is not an edgy nod to history. I'm not dignifying these attention seeking trolls.
Words and actions have consequences. If you're going to make the "mistake" of dressing up as something racist this year to be contrarian and controversial (at the risk of losing your job and reputation, too), be my guest. At this moment in time, there are real horrors to be dealt with that will be here long after the last trick-or-treater goes home on Halloween night.