Yale University — a respectable Ivy League school — was founded in 1701, making it the third oldest institution of higher education. Despite its endurance through the American Revolution, two World Wars and a deadly battle in Vietnam, the true struggle lies in a more hideous evil: a Yale lecturer who sent an email to all students, encouraging them to stand up for their rights to decide on which Halloween costumes to wear.
Over the years, controversies about “inappropriate” Halloween costumes have spread over social media, the press and even celebrities. Cases ranging from blackface, cultural and ethnic differences and stereotypes are the blatant reasons for public outcry, especially from minority groups.
Such was the case at Yale back in 2015. Professor Nicholas Christakis and his wife Erika Christakis — a Yale lecturer — underwent verbal fire from Yale students after Erika Christakis had issued an email urging critical thought to be put into the limits of Halloween costumes.
While she expected reflective conversation among students on what the difference between mockery and satire was, she received violent backlash instead.
Thousands of minority students called the email “racist” and “tone-deaf,” all the while immediately rallying on school grounds for the immediate removal of the Christakises from their positions.
Thus, the question is brought up as to why or how Halloween costumes have come to be known as culturally offensive.
Personally, as a high school student whose ridiculous mission is to dress up for Halloween all four years, I find the highly sensitive subject to be unreasonable at times. Take, for example, the Moana incident.
When little girls converted from singing “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” to “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana,” the worry about little girls wanting to dress up as Moana surfaced from parents, according to an article on fatherly.com titled “‘Moana’ Halloween Costume Controversy is Dividing Parents.” After all, while it was surprisingly easy for children to dress up as Elsa, the idea of them donning the darker-skinned Polynesian princess’s outfit was outrageous.
According to an article on raceconscious.org titled “Moana, Elsa and Halloween,” Sachi Feris wrote about her experiences dealing with her own daughter’s desires to dress up as either Elsa or Moana for Halloween.
“Elsa is an imaginary or made-up character. Moana is based on real history and a real group of people… If we are going to dress up as a real person, we have to make sure we are doing it in a way that is respectful,” Feris wrote.
And I absolutely agree. If a child wants to dress as Moana, Pocahontas, Mulan or any other character whose race is a minority group, they are doing it out of their admiration for these historically-based figures. Anything other than this, such as older teenagers or college students who dress up for ironic or offensive reactions, should not be allowed.
Take this other example from 2016 when Hilary Duff and her boyfriend, Jason Walsh, issued an apology after they had dressed up as a Native American and a Pilgrim. Not only was Walsh’s outfit abhorrently stereotypical of a Native, but he also had red facial paint accompanied by a feathered headpiece; Duff’s pilgrim outfit came complete with a fake gun.
This is the true face of Halloween horror. Not little girls in Polynesian outfits. Not little boys in Maui bodysuits covered in fake tattoos.
Before everyone blindly accuses certain Halloween costumes as racially insensitive or crude mockery, the context and history of what that certain character is should be kept in mind. Stereotypes and changing one’s skin to fit the outfit is a clear red flag that it is not Halloween-appropriate; however, if the costume were to be purely out of appreciation for a fictional character, show or even book series, it should be appropriate as long as skin color, accent and behavior do not reflect a cliche disdain toward a specific ethnic background.
As for me, I plan on dressing up this Halloween with my friends; the theme is Harry Potter. Does this offend you?