by Carmen Van Kerckhove
Over the last year, we’ve had some lively discussions on Anti-Racist Parent about the problematic racial elements of Halloween.
Jason Sperber urged parents to use Halloween as an opportunity to discuss stereotypes with their children:
What, then, are the messages and meanings embedded in these costumes, and do our children really want to broadcast or endorse these messages through their costume choices? Halloween can become an opportunity to engage our children in critical analysis and questioning of where stereotypical images come from and what they mean.
Karen Walrond shared a painful childhood memory and explained why she would never dress up her daughter in any type of national costume for Halloween:
For me, it’s not about offending anyone as much as it is about subjecting Alex to having to defend stereotypes associated with the costumes themselves. I want her to grow up view the cultures of her Trinidadian mother, English father, Mexican-American birthmother and Colombian birthfather with nothing but pride – therefore, it’s not a subject to be trotted out on Halloween, a day which, let’s face it, is all about parody and disguise. Further, in my opinion it would be far worse for Alex to dress as a member of any other race – one to which she had no real connection. After all, how could doing so be viewed as anything but a complete lack of understanding of that culture, or, at worst, a mockery?
Meera Bowman Johnson discussed how conflicted she felt when her daughter wanted to be a Disney princess for Halloween:
No one could convince me that plunking $19.99 on the counter for that costume would be anything more than a deposit on my daughter’s future therapy sessions. I couldn’t stomach the thought of letting my beige-skinned daughter dress up as the archetypical porcelain-skinned princess for Halloween. At the same time, I wasn’t ready to tell J-Jo why she couldn’t make her own decision about what to be for Halloween. So I stood there for a few minutes, staring at the wall of flammable frocks. And then I caved.
It’s clear that Halloween can be a racial minefield for anti-racist parents to navigate through. But at the same time, parents don’t want to deprive their children of having fun on this holiday.
So ARPs, what decisions have you made this year? What costumes will your children be wearing? What conversations have you had with them about Halloween?