Racist Halloween costumes gain community attention
A viral social media posting showing two college-aged Florida men dressed as Trayvon Martin and his killer, George Zimmerman, has sparked a conversation about how race is portrayed in Halloween costumes.
Costumes representing offensive stereotypes of ethnic groups such as American Indians or Mexicans might be found on the streets of East Lansing Thursday night, creating the question among students and faculty of when costumes are no longer fun and simply offensive.
Philosophy professor John McClendon said when there is a rise in racist attitudes in the popular culture, they will manifest themselves in things like Halloween costumes and what people will do and wear in a party situation.
“I think it’s not so much Halloween itself as it is the popular culture, and to what degree the popular culture embraces racist and those kinds of perspectives,” he said.
Journalism junior Tyler Clifford, who serves as president of MSU’s Black Student Alliance, said people are going too far when using race to portray negative stereotypes. Clifford was upset when actress Julianne Hough carelessly wore a blackface to portray an inmate character from “Orange is the New Black.”
“The girl wore the jumpsuit and she had a blackface on — that’s really throwing shots at the African American community,” Clifford said. “For Halloween costumes, I don’t think you should change up your own skin tone or change up something that’s portraying another race in a negative way.”
Biomedical laboratory science senior Thomas Chen said even if the costume is not directly meant to offend others, students need to be careful when choosing a costume.
“You have to be careful,” Chen said. “I’ve seen costumes this year such as Trayvon Martin and that’s something that is still a very touchy subject — a lot people can be offended.”