Staff Editorial: Seriously, it’s not hard to not be offensive for Halloween

As Halloween approaches, so does the search for Halloween costumes. Costumes present an opportunity for us to cut loose and have fun, but they also present an opportunity to offend others. Offensive costumes are an unfortunate part of the Halloween experience, and some people out there might feel the need to participate in that aspect. For those of you considering it, here’s a piece of advice: just don’t.

Given how common offensive costumes are, it’s surprisingly easy to not dress in an offensive costume. Avoid things such as cultural appropriation, racial stereotypes, sexist costumes, making fun of physical or mental illness and costumes that use low socioeconomic status as a punchline. If you want a more in-depth guide on some things to avoid, Black Anthology and Student Union published a costume guide in 2017 called “Culture Not Costume: A Guide to Culture Appropriation this Halloween.” Here’s a general rule of thumb: If you have to ask if it’s offensive, it’s probably offensive.

As easy as it is to avoid wearing offensive costumes yourself, it is much harder to call out those wearing offensive costumes. However, it is still important to talk to people wearing these costumes and let them know how they are hurting others. Don’t be afraid to call these people out in a productive, constructive manner. If your friend picks out a costume that you find offensive, it is better to say something right away rather than letting it go and the issue getting worse.

It is important to advocate for groups outside those you belong to if you notice something that is harmful to others. Some people may think “If this group isn’t present at this party, it is ok to dress up as them.” In circumstances like these, it is just as important to combat offensive Halloween costumes. Even if there isn’t anyone at a party that is directly offended by a costume, that costume is still offensive and wrong.

Another common occurrence of offensive Halloween costumes is the excuse that someone is dressing as an individual—for example someone’s favorite rapper or Pocahontas—rather than as a cultural stereotype. This excuse is invalid, if you cannot separate a person of a certain culture from those cultural stereotypes, you’re still being offensive.

There are so many costumes that aren’t offensive out there; why would you rather dress up in an offensive costume? You can always dress up as an animal, as an occupation, as a pun or as anything else that doesn’t offend other people. Avoiding offensive costumes barely limits your options and makes everyone around you more comfortable and safe.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.

Subscribe