Halloween Triggers Renewed Calls For Punishing Offensive Or Culturally Appropriating Costumes

The crackdown on offensive and culturally appropriating Halloween costumes continues across the country. Some of us have objected over the free speech concerns raised by these actions. However, those concerns appear lost on most students. According to a recent poll by The College Pulse, most students reject the free speech concerns over costumes and support punishment for students who wear “highly offensive” Halloween costumes.

The poll found that 51 percent of students supported punishment. Yet, there were 49 percent who said that “highly offensive” costumes are “a protected form of free speech.”

Schools are enforcing cultural appropriation rules, including one school with material declaring cultural appropriation to be “cultural genocide.”

The problem (other than the free speech concern) is that this term is defined so broadly as to defy clear understanding. George Nicholas, a Simon Fraser University professor, defined it as “taking or using some aspect of someone else’s heritage without permission or recompense in inappropriate, harmful, or unwelcome ways.”

I have previously written about my objections to these disciplinary actions by schools. There are clearly racist costumes that most of us join in denouncing, such as blackface or other raw portrayals. However, the cultural appropriation movement opposes any depiction of another culture. Indeed, what constitutes a social norm can be hard to discern. A New York Times column gave a tortured account of whether parents could allow their children to dress as Black Panther. The article included advice on sitting down with kids to discuss racial implications of their choices and, as Texas Woman’s University professor Brigitte Vittrup warned, “by not mentioning it, by not talking about it, we’re essentially preserving the status quo.”

Cultural foods and images are shared in society and the arts, particularly in a pluralistic nation like the United States. Adopting a cuisine or a costume is not “appropriating” a culture. Those are part of the mosaic of shared influences and images in a diverse free society. Dressing as a bandit from the movie “Treasure of Sierra Nevada” is not appropriating the Mexican culture. It is mimicking the character of Alfonso Bedoya.

We could accept that cultural icons like Moana are shared and become part of a broader cultural tradition and dialogue. That little girl in the Indian outfit just might be a little girl who wants to be like Pocahontas, a heroine who is strong and unafraid, nothing more. By the way, it is pretty cool to see kids still pretending and dressing up without having to carry all of our problems, from rapes to racism, as they file down our streets on Halloween. We somehow forget how to do that along the way to adulthood. Maybe, just maybe, we have something to learn from that samurai or princess who comes knocking on our door on Halloween.

92 thoughts on “Halloween Triggers Renewed Calls For Punishing Offensive Or Culturally Appropriating Costumes”

  1. Speaking of black face…. I wonder what Justin from Canada is dressing up as this year? The fruitcake drama teacher sure does like blacking up not just his face, but his whole body. Yet that didn’t stop the morons in Canada from reelecting this doofus. Nor did it stop Barack from endorsing his racist white supremacist friend up north. Double standards? You betcha. Why anyone would vote to put a Democrat in power today is mindblowing. Don’t do it. Just say no to electing Democrats. SAve the country! Save the World! Keep Democrats OUT of power!

      1. You are being too generous. He wasn’t. And they won’t.

        Obama was saying, “hey, it’s not cool if Republicans do it, and they will be destroyed and run out of town, but my friend, Justin from Canada? Well now, HE can black up his face, his knees, his hands, AND do it multiple times, AND stuff a banana down his pants to boot…AND none of that will stop me, Barack Obama, from endorsing my racist effed up drama teacher friend, Justin from Canada.”

        Why? Because the left’s rules only apply when Republicans do it — whatever it is. God help Canada. And Virginia. Governor blackface is still in office. Or is he Governor Klan hood? We still don’t know. Dems and their media pals could not care less when “they” do it. F’n hypocrites.

        1. Lesson? Dress as whatever the hell you want to dress as for Halloween. Justin from Canada does. And he just got reelected. Governor Klan hood did. And he’s still governor of Virginia.

          1. My black neighbor was heading out to a party tonight. I asked him what he was planning to dress up as. He pointed to his name tag that said, “I’m Justin Trudeau.” I said, “good costume, man.”

  2. The definition of black face should be clarified.

    Originally, blackface was used in minstrel shows, which caricatured black people. Blackface had huge white lips painted on, and parodied the behavior and dress of black people.

    This was done at a time of history where black people were either enslaved, and later under Jim Crow. While black people were striving to be considered equals with whites, they were the butt of white jokes.

    However, I do not consider every single time a white person darkens their skin to appear black to be blackface. This is not the same time and same mores. Many people don’t agree with you. If you dress up as a black person you admire, you’re racist. You absolutely cannot dress up as a black person for comedy.

    Was it wrong for two black guys to use makeup to look white in White Chicks? What about Danny Akroyd dressing up as a Jamaican in Trading Places and Robert Downey, Jr playing a dude, playing another dude, playing another dude in Tropic Thunder? Neither movie would ever be made today. There most emphatically would not have been a Simple Jack character.

    Racial stereotypes comprise much of a comedian’s routing. Chris Rock is one of my personal favorites. He parodies black and white culture. What about the Gift Basket prank by Gabriel Iglesias? He paid hotel staff to prank his black friend while he was in Fresno for a show. If I recall correctly, he sent up a basket of fried chicken, watermelon, and whiskey, compliments of the Fresno mayer. I’m surprised he didn’t get knocked out when he pounded on the door. And you bet that Iglesias parodies Latino culture, too.

    Comedians walk a fine line between funny and not. Personally, I find stereotype humor funny as long as it’s not cruel. Its comedic gold for some very talented Asian comics, like Margaret Cho.

    You know when people are treated as equals when everyone has their own jokes bandied about them. If you have to treat someone with kid gloves, they are not your equal or part of your community. A comedy routine today is not the same as a minstrel show from the 1840s.

    People need a sense of humor. People like Kathy Griffin. She’s not funny, just a mean girl who laughs while she bullies people.

    1. Love how you try to give ppl in black face a pass. True, it is not the same as slavery or Jim Crow times, we are 50 years removed from that. However, when ppl are treated the same in society, that might go….sadly they still aren’t so it is offensive to do so.

      1. A pass?

        I asked if it was ok for Dan Aykroyd to use a black costume to pretend to be a Jamaican in Trading Places.

        I said I don’t consider modern comedy or dressing up like someone you admire to be blackface. Do you?

        Why is darkening your skin considered blackface, when blackface was specifically part of a minstrel show. That is my question.

        So many actors and actresses have darkened their skin for photo shoots. Some even donned Afros for movies or shoots. It was done for a variety of reasons, ranging from comedy to whites admiring black beauty.

        Answer me this – should all of the above be accused of blackface and forced to apologize? Should they never work again? Robert Downey Jr is a fantastic actor, a Phoenix from the ashes of his messed up childhood. He’s made millions after Tropic Thunder.. How can that be? It’s either blackface for everyone, or it’s not. Or it’s a double standard.

        The only reasonable way that this makes sense is if it’s not in a minstrel show or cruel to black features, then it’s not blackface.

      2. In what way are black people not treated as our equals in society?

        Are they denied housing in white neighborhoods? No.
        If they are equally qualified on paper, are they denied college or jobs? No. In fact, they have an advantage.
        Are people prevented from dating or marrying interracially? No.
        Barred from led school? No.
        Do white people refuse to be friends with blacks? No.
        Not let their kids play together? No.
        Mocked in movies or tv as being inferior? No.

        This is because America is less racist than the rest of the world. While racism against whites is encouraged, it is rightly discouraged against blacks.

        List your reasons why you feel blacks are treated as inferiors, as in the times of minstrel shows.

        It’s not the 1800s.

      3. SMSMD……….I’ll tell you what’s offensive: the fact that black Africans have never been held accountable for selling other Africans into slavery. I know of a high school in the South for gifted and talented kids that will not allow that fact to be mentioned, much less tsught!
        Is it ever made part of Black History Month education?
        You could not have had buyers without sellers offering a product, Missy!

      4. On some level, you agree with me, too, that darkening your skin is not automatically blackface. Otherwise, you’d be clamoring for every actor who ever did so for a movie, photo shoot, or costume party to never work again.

        The fact that so many actors have done so in the past, and still work today, means that people must realize the absurdity of their position, and only selectively apply it.

  3. It’s a pretty sad day when people pick on little kids’ Halloween costumes. If Caucasian children want to dress up like their heroes Black Panther, Harriet Tubman, vampire slayer Blade, Jet Li, or Crazy Horse, then it’s admiration, not racism.

    Give it a rest and go measure someone’s lawn height.

      1. maybe next year I will go as Saloth Sar. i like the way he made the the social parasites in the cities, universities, and petty government bureaucrats actually go and dig gardens and actually work for their own food.

      2. Well, you just lost all your street cred as a Leftist. Didn’t you know that it’s racist for white children to get Black Panther costumes? Every white child who buys a BP costume is taking it away from a black kid who would like one, but, unfortunately, they sell out because of the racist, selfish white children. Wearing a BP costume is colonial and privileged.

        Apparently.

        No one picks on little kids like the Left.

        1. Prairie Rose…..Thank you…that is so neat to listen to….We have some old homemade tapes of Sir Charles T.’s ….he’s reading BW, also…..it’s incredible-sounding…..Why do we love that stuff, I wonder?? Probably because it transports us off of the hamster wheels of our daily lives and into wonderlands of history……especially if you’re sipping wine or a good espresso!
          Welcome back, by the way! You always offer an interesting perspective on “the subject”.

          1. Cindy,
            I will have to look him up on youtube.

            My presence may be spotty. I have 4 kids, two of them older and very involved in school and the fall has gotten very busy!

        2. P.S. Prairie Rose…..I have heard the President of Hillsdale interviewed, and was very impressed with him and the school………(the school refuses federal funds) It is conservative in the best sense of the word.
          It was founded by Free Will Baptists.
          Kat Timpf is an alumnus and graduated either magna or suma.

          1. Let’s not forget about this little piece of Hillsdale history:

            Sex, lies and suicide

            While championing family values, former Hillsdale President George Roche III was sleeping with his daughter-in-law.

            JONATHAN ELLIS

            JANUARY 19, 2000 10:00PM (UTC)

            https://www.salon.com/2000/01/19/hillsdale/

            A couple of excerpts:

            “In November, another right-wing wolf cloaked in family values sheepskin was unzipped to the American public. George Roche III resigned as president of conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan after accusations of a quasi-incestuous relationship with his daughter-in-law, Lissa.”

            “Roche is rumored to have bailed out with a golden parachute. The college refuses to confirm the amount of his retirement package, but a member of the Roche family puts the figure at $3 million.”

            1. Anonymous………What does this have to do with my assessment of the school?
              I said nothing about “family vslues”.
              Many great schools, churches, organizations have a scandal in their past. So what? Does that make you giggle like a teenager?
              If it’s so iimportant to you, why hide behind anonymous. Be proud of your silliness.

              1. “…why hide behind anonymous. Be proud of your silliness.”

                Cindy Bragg is obviously quite proud of her own “silliness.”

              2. Cindy,
                Apparently this one person exemplifies the whole school, so now the whole school is tainted by this one person’s actions from nearly 20 years ago. It is especially crucial to air dirty linens since it is a conservative school. Conservatives must live absolutely perfect, sinless lives or they ought to be ridiculed mercilessly and maybe even cast out into a fiery furnace. Heaven forbid anyone have values they aim to live. Failure to fully embody such values isn’t a time for self-reflective shame and a desire to repent. Sins are forever, apparently, if you’re a conservative.

                Left-wing wolves must be like the emperor with no clothes: everybody knows what terrible things they do but act as though nothing is wrong–Epstein and Weinstein, for example.

            2. “George Roche III resigned as president of conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan after accusations of a quasi-incestuous relationship with his daughter-in-law, Lissa.”
              *********************
              Hot girl commits adultery with older man. Oh my pearls!! How could this ever happen??

            3. Roche is dead and left office 20 years ago. What does this have to do with the curriculum at Hillsdale, Mr. Ad Hom?

    1. this, one of the most famous weird tales ever penned by an American, is chock full of culturally offensive remarks. And yet it’s among the greatest!

  4. The First Amendment was designed primarily to protect unpopular, ugly and even highly offensive speech. Popular speech doesn’t need a constitutional amendment. The First Amendment and Bill of Rights is also a “restraint” on government authority, government officials have no such authority to police legal speech exercises. Public schools need to do better job at Civics Education on how the American system is designed to work. If we don’t educate the next generation, America’s model of government will go down Orwell’s “memory hole”.

  5. One can take offense at any possible costume. You could dress up as a baby, and that would offend those who can’t have children. A nun would offend the Catholics, Mohammad would get you murdered, a killer from a slasher movie is insensitive to the victims of violence, a politician would offend the other party…

    What, exactly, would a Leftist-approved costume look like? Probably a beheaded Trump costume would be fine, as who cares about offending Trump supporters.

    When you give others the right to censor your speech, you are not free.

    1. Karen,
      There are some awesome art erasers that are effectively squishy, gray blobs. Such a costume would, if nothing else, be a great metaphor on Leftists’ actions and ideological bents.

      1. I love those erasers. One of the reasons why I work in pastels is that they are forgiving.

        Set in stone should be “painted in watercolor”, as you get what you get with that medium.

        The Left seems rather parsimonious in its own forgiveness. It makes darlings out of former Klansmen and cop killers, and you can identify as whatever race you want, but if you dress up like a black person you admire, ever in your life, you are forever ruined. They will comb through your social media, yearbooks, interview who bagged your groceries thirty years ago, and whoever went to college with you who now hates your politics. If you ever strayed from the approved conduct manual, no matter how many decades ago, you might as well quit now, because the Left will ruin your life.

        1. Karen,
          It is cheating, I suppose, but I do like using watercolor crayons and watercolor pencils since they offer more control, at least for me.

          I will have to try pastels. I typically use pencils and pen, when not using my ‘cheater’ watercolors. 🙂

          You are right, though, watercolor mistakes do seem to ‘set in stone’.

        2. Karen…..you and Prairie are gifted! I would give anything to be able to paint, or draw…even cartoons!
          Our daughter helps run our local art center/gallery and has introduced us to some amazing local artists….especially tha woman who does pastels…….they are wonderful!

          1. Cindy,
            You are very kind.

            If Jackson Pollack can be an artist, so can you. 🙂

            Start small, all it takes is practice and good observation about the world. Imitate at first, if that helps. Paint some happy, little trees. You have a good ear for balance and beauty. Have fun with the materials.

            1. Prairie Rose – when I was teaching Intro to Art, I used to think Jackson Pollack was a rip-off. However, then I had the chance to see three of his paintings in the same museum and spent some time with them. Then I fell in love with his work. Jackson Pollack is an artist who based much of his work on the sand painters of the Southwest.

              Now, you just have to become a Post Modernist and you can claim anything as art.

              1. Paul S.,
                I suppose there may be more to Pollack than meets the eye. I guess I’m an art rube. I have trouble making sense of Pollack’s work, and, for me, art is a way to help make sense of the world.

                The Pollack paintings I think of look like some kid had a temper tantrum with that Southwestern sand art.

                To each his own. Though, post-modernism is a bridge to far.

                    1. Prairie Rose – don’t try to have Jackson make sense, just immerse yourself in the rhythms.

                1. I’ve seen his work in galleries. Like much else in galleries, it’s great fodder for a bonfire.

              2. Paul……..I’m always surprised, but shouldn’t be, at what you have taught over the years!

                You mentioned post-modern…… One of my favorite movies when I was in my 30’s, was “The Moderns”.
                Remember that?

          2. P.S. I bet Karen has some awesome pastels of her horses!

            I just have fun with art. I am not serious enough about it to even remotely consider having anything displayed anywhere besides my fridge.

        3. “…you might as well quit now, because the Left will ruin your life.”

          Utter nonsense, by Karen S.

          “the Left”

          “The left” is not monolithic.

        4. “t makes darlings out of former Klansmen and cop killers…”

          More nonsense. Karen S deals in hyperbole and generalization.

    2. Mostly good points but using labels like “liberal” or “leftist” is not accurate and stereotypes entire groups. For example, former Attorney General John Ashcroft was conservative on his interpretation of Christianity, conservative on social but Ashcroft was extremely liberal on the U.S. Constitution – including the First Amendment – which is the issue here. Ashcroft was extremely liberal in subverting every clause of the First Amendment and violated most other amendments in our Bill of Rights. Ashcroft did all of this without passing a constitutional amendment. Democrats still haven’t reversed those liberal Bush policies. Under the Bush Administration, the USA’s policies were condemned by the International Red Cross [a Christian organization], the Vatican and Amnesty International. The Bushies were liberal on the Geneva Conventions which protect U.S. troops in future conflicts. If “liberal” is a dirty word, it was liberal to grant women’s voting rights and other minority rights. Conservatives were strongly opposed to granting women equal rights or any other group. Your other points are right on, censorship is always bad and labels aren’t always accurate.

      1. AZ,
        Groups and individuals are different matters. As a group, Americans value free speech. However, there are smaller groups, as well as individuals, within the larger context of ‘Americans’ who do not value free speech. Of course individuals are nuanced, yet, if everyone operated entirely as individuals, no cohesion and being of ‘like mind’ could exist.

        ‘Liberal’ is not a ‘dirty word’. It is more moderate, closer to the classical liberal association.

        Leftist is radical. The attitudes at hand are radical, and it isn’t right-wingers promoting them.

        Nonetheless, Iam happy to debate the argument. And, I suppose leaving out categorical identifiers could make potential opponents more open to considering the argument at face value.

    1. Yes. Most of all, they’re for freedom for homosexual inclinations and conduct, laziness, skepticism, negativity, and generally disorderly behavior.

      1. Up until recently, I agreed with what you mentioned, Karen. But since, for me I’ve come to expect them to attack each other for not being liberal enough. They tend to eat their own when there isn’t an “enemy” conveniently available at the moment:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPLQNUVmq3o

        It’s mostly about self-righteousness and narcissism, power playing to be the ultimate example of the purest and most relevant person around.

        Though one may be the most glorious of the flock, he remains relegated nevertheless to be a sheep among many–un-respected by everyone else outside the barn yard.

  6. According to a recent poll by The College Pulse, most students reject the free speech concerns…

    Here is the question they asked: Are highly offensive Halloween costumes (such as blackface) a protected form of free speech on campus, or should students who wear them be punished?

    Adding “highly offensive” into the survey question would certainly skew the results. And yet the most was still barely a majority. What was the margin of error?

    Cultural appropriation is just another tool for what is really desired to be appropriated: Power/Control.

  7. What bothers me the most is that no one ever clarifies just exactly who gets to define “offensive”, or “hate speech”, for that matter.

  8. These students managed to get to college yet fail to comprehend the meaning of the word “costume”? God forbid they’ve invested the farm in their education, because with such blatant stupidity it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever graduate, let alone attain high-level jobs that would give them a chance at paying back their student loans.
    Oh I forgot, according to the left, education is supposed to be free, just like health care & housing, but no one has explained exactly who is paying for all these freebies?!?

    1. “These students managed to get to college yet fail to comprehend the meaning of the word “costume”?”
      ******************
      Excellent point, Deb! The kids have been given so much they feel the right to scream “Live as I sayyyyyy! Sorry Biff and Buffy. Mommy’s apron strings are only so long and surely don’t reach out past the front door.

      1. The religious right have attacked Halloween as worship of Satan and the left w/ this PC horseshit. Basta! The far left and right hate kids favorite day.

        1. Nick:

          I never liked the holiday because it puts little kids out on car-filled streets at night with masks blocking their peripheral vision and begging for sugary treats. If you proposed a holiday like today that with its glorification of the occult, you’d be sent packing.

          1. mespo, You are correct a out the safety issue. But I just drove streets w/ costumed kids. Almost all had adult escorts. I drive 15 mph on residential streets on Halloween. I remember the freedom and pure joy of Halloween and don’t want kids to miss that in our increasingly joyless culture.

            1. nick:

              We had two kids hit last year around here and yep they were not chaperoned. It’s just too dangerous for the minimal benefit. The churches around here do parties which I fully support. No reason to have kids running door to door at night with all kinds of delivery drivers hustling around.

              1. It depends on the neighborhood. It’s quite safe in some areas and most people — kids and adults alike — enjoy the tradition.

                That said, there are also school and city events which are nice.

                I agree with Nick:

                “I remember the freedom and pure joy of Halloween and don’t want kids to miss that in our increasingly joyless culture.”

  9. We had a kid in our neighborhood who did the trick or treat trek dressed as a hot dog. He had a fake hot dog all up and down and a bun over that and even some mustard. When asked he replied: Why do you call this day: Hollow Weenie? The older kid with him had on a slightly different costume which I cannot mention on this blog. They said that they were from Wien, Austria but I never heard of that town.

  10. “According to a recent poll by The College Pulse, most students reject the free speech concerns over costumes and support punishment for students who wear “highly offensive” Halloween costumes.”
    *******************
    Pro Medical tip: Kids age 18-22 don’t have fully functioning cerebral cortices. That’s why we don’t give them responsibility over our lives.

  11. Educational institutions at all levels attract and retain petty, officious hags who live to make an irritant of themselves to others. Some are teachers and some are administrators. Most women get it out of their system harassing their families. They also attract a certain number of smarmy capons who have the same mentality or act as enablers to the petty, officious hags. (And while they pester their charges over trivia that’s offensive only in the breezy space between their ears, they can’t bring themselves to lower the boom on real trouble-makers). What’s novel here is that you have a critical mass of organization kids who are siding with the petty, officious hags. Remember the trope you’d hear frequently 40 years ago, “It’s a FREE country”. Well, now it’s a country half populated by the free (men and women) and half populated by people who are willing to be bossed around by social workers and school administrators suffused with socially-sanctioned aggression. You’d expect this from Canadians, not from Americans.

    1. one day there may come a different version of the Red Guards or the Khmer Rouge, and these university apparatchiks will be sent to remote detainment facilities to be themselves “re-educated” in useful social skills like growing their own gardens for their own food,
      right now they are socially useless except as some sort of vain commissars for a creaky outdated system, teetering on its weak legs of its own insanities

      here’s a few reee reee reee scenes of hysteria from abusive female subjects who’ve been miseducated and find themselves totally unable to control themselves and act decently

  12. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who opined that all children should be locked in a closet until age 18, then put to work. I think this has merit.

        1. mespo – there is no reason we cannot go back to cottage industries with children working in closets. Win-win.

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