Archived: Universities Warn Against Blackface Halloween Costumes

By Daryl Hannah


With Halloween less than a week away, universities are warning students against dressing in Blackface, hosting watermelon-eating-themed parties, and other Halloween antics that preclude diversity and inclusion “all in the name of fun.”

For the second time in as many years, officials at the University of Minnesota sent a letter to students encouraging them to avoid “culturally insensitive” costumes that might also land them in trouble with the university.

The letter reads:

“In particular, please keep in mind that certain Halloween costumes inappropriately perpetuate racial, cultural and gender stereotypes. Although it may not be the intent, these costumes, and choosing to wear them, can depict identities in ways that are offensive or hurtful to others. Please take care in selecting your Halloween costumes. And, as always, keep in mind the potential for social-media posts to have a long-term impact on your reputation.

“Halloween is just one occasion on a broad continuum where we all benefit from acting with an understanding of the concepts of diversity, inclusion and respect. At the U of M, we work to foster an environment that supports these values, and we seek to weave them into the life and work of every member of our community.”

Advising students against racist and homophobic costumes and parties isn’t unheard of. Especially after the racist and homophobic costumes flooded social media last year.

Last Halloween, the Delta Kappa Epsilon sorority at theUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, threw a 1960s-themed party featuring “hippies” mixing with men in rice-paddy hats. In June 2013, students at California State University, San Marcos hosted a Cowboy and Indian themed graduation party. The new members of University of California, Irvine’s chapter of Lambda Theta Delta issued an apology last year after photos and videos of them donning Blackface ignited a furor on social media. The entire video can be seen below.

And unfortunately it’s not just colleges. Three hockey fans in the audience of a North Dakota high school state semifinal game in February wore Ku Klux Klan-ish hoods and robes as a “joke.”

In response, schools started warning students about their culturally insensitive costumes.

University of Colorado Boulder Dean of Students Christina Gonzales has also warned students that “sombreros geishas, ‘squaws,’ cowboys and Indians” fall under the university’s insensitive category.

“Unfortunately, stores often sell stereotypical and offensive costumes,” Gonzaleswrote in a letter to students. “If you are planning to celebrate Halloween by dressing up in a costume, consider the impact your costume decision may have on others in the CU community.

“As a CU Buff, making the choice to dress up as someone from another culture, either with the intention of being humorous or without the intention of being disrespectful, can lead to inaccurate and hurtful portrayals of other peoples’ cultures in the CU community.”

After similar incidents at Ohio University, Students Teaching About Racism (STARS), a student group “dedicated to the prevention of racism through education,” started a dialogue about racist-themed costumes. STARS hosted a Halloween poster campaign called “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume”that informs students that some of their holiday get-ups are probably misguided and possibly racist.

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