Last year, two students at Northwestern University ran into some trouble after dressing up in blackface for a Halloween party. This year, college dean Burgwell Howard isn’t taking chances and recently sent an email out to the entire student body (see the letter here).
There’s a lot in this email worth discussing. However, I’m not going to touch on the blackface issue (it is commendable that Northwestern addressed the incident in an educational and timely matter), but a later part of the letter. In it, Howard outlines (in bullet point form, so you know serious business is afoot) questions that students should ask themselves while preparing Halloween costumes this year. Seeing as Halloween is this weekend, why don’t we Britons also take a look and see how well we’re doing?
“Wearing a funny costume? Is the humor based on “making fun” of real people, human traits or cultures?”
Well, it’s a good thing I wasn’t planning on ironically going as any cast member from the Jersey Shore.
“Wearing a historical costume? If this costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies?”
So, no pirate costumes? I mean, they did drink, but they did so much more! If anyone in a pirate costume started to hijack cars, would it be okay then? They would just be updating historical figures to modern times.
“Wearing a ‘cultural’ costume? Does this costume reduce cultural differences to jokes or stereotypes (sic)?”
I honestly don’t know of anyone who dresses in a cultural costume, unless you count zombies as a culture.
“Could someone take offense with your costume and why?”
In other words, you’re better off just staying in this weekend.
Wouldn’t have been easier to have just sent out an email saying “Don’t be an idiot and dress in blackface or any costume that might cause us to be shown on national media and make our students appear as if they have no common sense whatsoever?”