It’s Halloween on Saturday. Do you have any big plans? I’ll be home handing out candy to what seems like hundreds of children. I live in one of the more popular trick-or-treating neighborhoods in Downtown San Jose. The kids here do not mess around. They come in droves. They’re relentless. It’s terrifying. And, when the candy runs out, it becomes horrifying. The knocking never cease, even when we turn out the lights and turn off the creepy music. It's like the children know we're inside, cowering in fear, clutching our candy-less bowls in despair. They ignore the "out of candy" sign we post on the door, knocking persistently, making us feel smaller with every demand for sweets we do not have. I love this time of year.
I was contemplating dressing up to hand out candy Saturday night, but I was hit over the head with so many rules about acceptable costumes, that ultimately I decided against it. Lately, it seems like everywhere I look online there’s a post, video, comic or status update dictating what’s not OK to wear in celebration of All Hallows’ Eve. I even came across an article that details how one should call out a friend for wearing an offensive costume.
As a minority whose culture is regularly reduced to the same negative, cartoonish stereotype just for laughs, I appreciate the attempt at political correctness.
Believe me. I sincerely appreciate it; however, enough is enough. Halloween is not the time to gallop around on high horses, preaching to friends about what’s offensive and what’s appropriate. It’s one of those times when you use the lemons you’ve been handed to make yourself some lemonade. The truth is, it’s a time for reconnaissance
Trust me, you don’t want to discuss race relations with friends when you’ve got sexy pizza floating around. It’s distracting and it never ends well. If you see a friend rolling deep in a Nazi getup, or yukking it up in blackface this Halloween, breathe deep. Prepare to take mental notes because your recon mission has begun.
When you see a costume that offends you, do your best to suppress the bile that’s surely creeping into your esophagus and think of something funny.
Once you’ve regained composure and reigned in your facial expressions, pay attention. Ask yourself: Is this your best bud, coworker, relative, acquaintance or a potential friend? Are you planning on spending more time with this individual in the future? If so, make note of what they think is funny and appropriate. Is it something that deeply offends you, personally? Focus. Is this person trying to be outwardly racist or are they attempting to be funny? Do you want to pity them or punch them in the crotch? Make a note of eye contact. Can they proudly display their costume whilst looking you dead in the eye?
Someone thinks blackface is cool because the Wayans brothers dressed up as White Chicks for a movie once? Good to know. You might want to save your thoughts on the history of blackface and how it impacts your appreciation of comedy sketches that include characters such as Dave Chapelle’s Chuck Taylor. Save it. They’re not interested in how you think it’s great that the Wayans Brothers were able to take a practice once used to denigrate their entire race and culture, turn the concept on its ear and make it funny. Nah. They effectively don’t got time for that, and that’s all right. Not everyone does.
Zen the hell out for a second and ask yourself this: What would you gain from actually confronting this person about their costume? What do you expect them to do once you’ve told them you’re not down with their (hopefully) inadvertently offensive ways? Should they take the costume off? Leave it on and hang their heads in shame for the rest of the night? Go home? What?
Screw confrontation. It doesn't go well with costumes and cocktails. Look, you don’t have to laugh at the joke, but at the same time, don’t be a hero. No one asked you to be Captain Race Relations. It’s OK to accept someone else’s poor judgement as simply that and move on. Have a drink (or a fun-sized Snickers) and scope out the people in the clever costumes instead. They’re the ones you want to be talking to anyway. Well, them and the ones in the gory outfits. Gore is good.