By Quintez Brown —
Another year of thrills and chills calls for another reminder that CULTURES ARE NOT COSTUMES.
It’s not a hard concept to grasp. You would think people would learn by now to not be so insensitive with their costumes. It’s not difficult to see how blackface, headdresses, sombreros, etc are derogatory and offensive, even if unintentional.
James Ramsey, president Neeli Bendapudi’s predecessor, learned his lesson after his disastrous sombrero picture a couple years ago.
Thankfully our new, amazing president would never pull such an insensitive, racist stunt.
In an email sent to all students, respect and cultural competency were stressed and emphasized by dean of students Michael Mardis and vice provost for diversity and international affairs Mordean Taylor-Archer.
“As we approach Halloween and the many activities related to it, please take time to consider your fellow Cardinals when choosing costumes and themes,” the email said.
The email also recognized Bendapudi’s efforts to make diversity a priority on campus.
“As President Bendapudi has stressed, we are working to make the University of Louisville a great place to learn, to work and to invest. She adds that we will do so by developing a culture that celebrates diversity, fosters equity and seeks to achieve inclusion.”
Her commitment is reflected in the C.A.R.D.I.N.A.L. values she described at her inauguration, where the D stands for Diversity. Hopefully, our campus community will understand the importance of this commitment.
Halloween is a fun, silly holiday where you’re supposed to be creative and let your imagination run wild. There are a million costumes to choose from. You can be basic and be a ghost. Or you can think outside the box and be a pair of Gucci slides.
Just don’t be a “sexy Native-American” or a “drunk Mexican” or wear something like a hijab or kippah that’s actually part of someone’s religion or culture.
Also, try not to color your face with dark face paint. Blackface has a long history in America of being used as a racist stereotype. Unfortunately, every year around this time we continue to see the same behavior, espicially at college parties. Some argue that people are too sensitive and Halloween is not the time to be “politically correct”.
Blackface goes beyond politics. By painting your face black and turning someone’s identity into a caricature, you are contributing to a centuries-long history of systemic racism and implicit bias that has vilified, dehumanzied, and marginalized African Americans.
Saying you’re not racist or saying that you have black friends doesn’t change how your costume can affect and harm the people that you’re mimicking. Not just the people that see your costume, but a whole race of human beings that you just stereotyped and mocked.
“It is important to remember that blackface and other forms of cultural appropriation are culturally insensitive and may be offensive to others. This is particularly true of costumes that depict other races, cultures and/or identities,” the email said.
Your privilege may not allow you to see how your costume is offensive to your neighbors, but when you mock someone’s identity right in front of their face, you’re telling them their language, dress and customs aren’t worthy of respect.
We don’t want to hinder your freedom of expression or choice for costume. We all want to enjoy the holiday. It’s not people trying to create a problem out of anything, it’s simply asking for respect and consideration.
“Thoughtful consideration of how our dress and actions can have a negative impact on others will help allow all of us to have the opportunity to enjoy the holidays and other events without controversy,” the email said.
You can appreciate others’ cultures and celebrate them, but Halloween is not the appropriate time for this. And it’s never an appropriate time to mock or appropriate our neighbors’ cultures.
Let’s think, stay safe and have fun during this spooky season.
Pictured: Former president James Ramsey (far right) and staff pose for a photo in racially insensitive costumes.
Photo Courtesy / The Courier Journal