A few weeks ago, my daughter came home from school and said that her friend had asked her to be a slave in their Halloween play. I am a middle-aged white woman who is not easily shocked. I am also a social worker who has worked with teens for twenty years, as well as a mother of a seven year old girl. Yet, this conversation still took me off guard. My daughter continued to tell me about her friend’s costume ideas for the play, and she asked me what I thought. I told her that I didn’t like the idea of anyone dressing up as another person’s slave, because it was not respectful. She looked perplexed, and said that she didn’t think it was disrespectful because they were just pretending.
What should I have said? How can I explain the cultural significance of Halloween and its costumes to a seven year old? In retrospect, I would have told my daughter that dressing up as someone else’s slave is disrespectful because slavery is an important part of our history as Americans, and we should respect all people, regardless of race or culture.
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I love the creativity that goes into costumes, carving pumpkins, decorating your house and yard, and handing out candy to all the kids. I also love dressing up as my favorite characters. As a child, I had a Scooby Doo costume that I wore every year without fail.
I often wonder what would be a good costume this year. The choices are endless: funny, scary, retro, sexy, etc. But one thing to consider when choosing your costume is whether it is culturally appropriate.
Every Halloween we see costumes that glorify slavery and racism. A woman dressed in blackface and an afro as a “ghetto girl.” Men wearing prison jumpsuits with their hands chained together. White men wearing blackface and dressed as “thugs” or rappers for Halloween parties or other celebrations. These costumes are not only racially insensitive, but demeaning to African Americans and people of color who live in this country.
The Scooby Doo Costume is a classic Halloween costume. What many people do not realize is that the costume glamorizes slavery and human trafficking. Some of the facts about this particular costume include:
1. Scooby Doo was originally purchased from an auction in New Orleans, Louisiana
2. Daphne Blake was the person who originally adopted Scooby-Doo for her own personal gain
3. Daphne Blake and her family were slave owners
4. The original Scooby Doo costume was worn by a slave named “Shaggy”
5. Shaggy was forced to be Scooby’s owner, handler and trainer with no option to leave due to the conditions of his slavery
6. On one occasion, Shaggy ran away with Scooby Doo in hopes of finding freedom but they were captured and brought back against their will
Halloween is a time when people of all ages, from children to adults, enjoy dressing up in costumes and participating in parties and other festivities. While many costumes are harmless and fun, some costumes can be offensive to others and cross the line into racism.
People often choose to dress up as other races for Halloween, and many of these costumes are racist caricatures that are insensitive and degrading. Costumes like “Mexican bandit” or “Native American princess” can make fun of an entire race, while others like “Arab terrorist” or “Blackface” promote racial stereotypes. These costumes perpetuate harmful ideas about different cultures, and they are not appropriate for Halloween or any other costume occasion.
In addition to being culturally insensitive, many of these types of costumes also glorify slavery. One example is the Aunt Jemima costume, which is based on a racial stereotype of an old Black woman who worked as a servant on a plantation. The character originated from a white man’s idea of what Black women were like at the turn of the century. This costume makes light of the history of slavery in America and reduces Black women to servants and slaves instead of portraying them as the independent women they have become today.
Another example is the Golliwog costume, which
From the most innocent of holiday’s origins to the most innocent of TV characters, Halloween costumes are constantly under scrutiny for being offensive for one reason or another. This year, it’s Scooby-Doo that has people upset.
The outfit in question is from Rubie’s Costume Co. and comes in two different styles – one for boys, who can dress as Shaggy, and one for girls, who can dress as Velma. The costume itself is a pretty straightforward Scooby-Doo costume – however, the model wearing the girls’ version has a headband that says “slave” on it.
For Halloween, I was a bit hesitant on what to dress up as. Although I really wanted to be a vampire, I saw other girls in the mall who were dressed as vampires and thought that my costume wouldn’t be unique enough for me. I then decided to look for other ideas on the internet and came across a picture of a girl dressed up as Daphne from Scooby Doo. With her red wig and green dress, it seemed like the perfect idea for me.
I went to my local party store and found the perfect outfit. What I didn’t think about before going, though, was how offensive my costume could be perceived by others, especially people of color. To them, the outfit might not just be a costume of a character from their favorite childhood cartoon show; the outfit could represent much more than that.
Instead of being just a costume of Daphne from Scooby Doo, this outfit could also be seen as representing slavery in America. The red hair that is used to portray Daphne’s character is also used as wigs for slave owners so that they are able to disguise themselves in public without anyone knowing who they are and what they do. In addition, the green dress that I bought also resembles a dress worn by slaves
It’s that time of year – the time to start thinking about what you’re going to dress up as for Halloween. If you’re looking for an idea that is truly representative of the holiday, and you don’t mind looking completely terrifying, then why not consider dressing up like one of the hundreds of thousands of slaves who were kidnapped from their homes in Africa and forced to work in America?
It might seem a little odd to celebrate a holiday by dressing up as someone who was brought to America against their will, but let’s be honest: when else does anyone dress up like a slave? It’s not exactly a popular costume choice. And since it is so rarely worn, it would be interesting to see what someone dressed in a halloween costume inspired by slavery would look like walking around on Halloween.
So if you’re looking for an unusual halloween costume this year, why not try something new? Try dressing up like a slave! I’m sure it will get lots of attention. Please note: if you do decide to go with this idea, we ask that you not use any phony accents or stereotypes when talking to people at your party or event. We also ask that you refrain from wearing anything that could be considered offensive.