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‘We’re a culture, not a costume’

October 28, 2011

With Halloween just around the corner, students at Ohio University have launched a public service campaign as part of an effort to prevent cultures from being exploited into stereotypical costumes. Emanuella Grinberg’s article on, ‘We’re a culture, not a costume’ this Halloween features the Ohio University students’ posters that showcase some of the offensive costumes and the cultures they affect.  The most obvious offense occurs when someone who is not black decides to go blackface (due to the historical context), however their message applies to all races and stereotypes and not just for, during, or on Halloween.

According to Jelani Cobb, professor of African studies at Rutgers University and the author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress“To treat a character like Batman or Superman as a Halloween costume is one thing, but to treat an entire ethnicity as a costume is something else. It suggests that people conflate the actual broad diversity of a culture with caricatures and characters.”

While Italian-Americans can be stereotyped as gangsters and Irish-Americans as hard drinkers, there are no pervasive stereotypes for whites on the same level that allow for them to be caricatured as a Halloween costume, Cobb said. “The more we look at people as caricatures, the harder it is to operate as democracy,” he said. “What underlies this kind of costuming is the belief that these people aren’t quite equal to what we are or aren’t as American as we are or that you as a person who’s not [a] member of that group should be able to dictate how painful stereotype should be.”

To read Grinberg’s full article on, click here>>

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