ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WTSP) – Costumes are the staple of any Halloween celebration, but every year, someone makes an insensitive selection that takes over the All Hallows’ Eve headlines.
There are already a handful of examples from this year. Over the weekend, a pair of fans at the Wisconsin-Nebraska game in Madison showed up in costumes that eventually led them to be reprimanded by university officials.
One fan donned a mask with a close resemblance to President Obama, while the other held onto a noose that hung around the costumer’s neck.
Nooses around African Americans immediately conjure up images of racial lynchings that were commonly used as a form of racial intimidation in the post-Civil War South.
Costumes that also misappropriate or take from a culture without context or understanding are also considered offensive to the groups said culture belongs to.
Hilary Duff learned this lesson the hard way this year after being sharply criticized for a dressing as a Pilgrim with her boyfriend, who donned a Native American costume.
“I am SO sorry to people I offended with my costume. It was not properly thought through and I am truly, from the bottom of my ❤️sorry,” Duff said on Twitter.
Costume apologies like the one from Duff are a recurring theme around Halloween. A few years back, actress Julianne Hough darkened her skin to resemble a black actress, a move that many considered to be in the tradition of blackface.
Blackface grew in popularity in American culture starting as early as the 1830s during minstrel shows, in which white men would use burnt cork to darken their skin while performing degrading stereotypes of African Americans as a form of entertainment for white audiences.
“These images, they have real-world impact,” said University of South Florida Professor Aisha Durham. “It’s a way in which we’re seen in society.”
So before selecting a costume this Halloween, make sure it’s one that is sensitive to others.