What’s your costume this Halloween? Let’s scare racism away!
Think of a typical Halloween night: children are happily running up and down the street trick or treating, collecting sweets and other types of treats from the neighbourhood. They are accompanied by their older siblings or parents. It is a busy night! The community is happy and open to visitors; everyone eagerly awaits that knock at the door from children waiting to collect their spoils. The atmosphere is filled with excitement, mischief and uncertainty, but all in good humour.
To some immigrants this is new but if they have been living in Ireland for some time they might have become familiar with the customs and are now participating in these events with their children.
The great thing about Halloween is that it’s all about inclusion (everyone gets involved!) and participation (not just children eating the sweets!). It is also a great opportunity to discuss stereotypes, biases and cultural appropriation…
Dressing up in fancy dress or weird costumes is one of the oldest traditions of Halloween. The disguise was to confuse angry spirits. It is believed this tradition originated as a way for the Celts to hide from the spirits who returned at this time – All Hallows’ Eve. The Celts wore masks when they left their homes after dark so the ghosts would think they were fellow spirits and cause no harm.
Costumes during Halloween have become part of popular culture. People often dress up to make statements or even imitate icons or celebrities they fancy or loath to mock or celebrate them.
Any form of dress is a type of communication, whatever a person wears or is disguised as, they are sending messages and information about the wearer to those observing them.
Halloween is an opportunity to send the right messages, to celebrate diversity, share stories and a chance to build cohesion and promote integration and inclusion. Irish society’s rich diversity, with one in eight of us from a migrant background, means this is even more of an important opportunity.
This is why it’s important to remember dressing in some costumes is potentially hurtful or offensive, especially if there are negative stereotypes associated with the particular choice of costume.
For example, if you dress like a Red Indian or a certain ethnic or racial stereotype, you could send the wrong message to people in the community. One of the most offensive and regular fancy dress arguments concerns the use of ‘blackface’ make-up. As a white person, it is racially offensive and disrespectful to the people of colour. The history behind blackface minstrel might come back to haunt you, it is no longer funny or entertaining to do so. Otherwise you will be fuelling the negative stereotype associated with this type of costume.
Before you choose your Halloween costume this year, take a moment to consider the message behind the costume: are you promoting positive culture and traditions, are you using it as an opportunity to reach out to your local community and celebrate together, regardless of background? That’s the true spirit(!) of Halloween!
And one little ‘trick’ of our own!