Halloween is a time of joy and good cheer, where we can dress up with our friends and show off our creativity. Although, many costumes are fun and humorous, there are some costume options from which we should steer clear.
Roots African Caribbean Society would like to affirm its stand against costumes that encourage and perpetuate stereotypes or commemorate grim and grievous events in history.
Among these costumes lies the example of Blackfacing—the act of painting one’s face brown or black with the purpose to depict a black person or person of colour.
Those who are unfamiliar with the history of blackface and/or not negatively impacted by acts of racism may think that this shows dedication to the costume, but to all people of African descent, this is a crude reminder of the oppression and turmoil through which our ancestors lived.
“Blackface” was made famous by Jim Crow in the Minstrel show where the goal was to demean and dissociate black people from the “superior white races.”
In these shows, we were shown to be lazy, mumbling, uneducated people with exaggerated features such as extremely large lips achieved by applying extensive amounts of lipstick on and around the lips.
Though white people passed off blackface and racist tropes as comedy, the stereotypes being presented had serious negative impacts on people of colour. This led to what we recall as the dreadful era of segregation where bathrooms and buses along with almost every other public place were attributed “whites only” or “coloured”.
When white people dressed in blackface during minstrel shows, the motivation behind it was to create humour at the expense of black people.
While the intent to dress in blackface today might be to entertain, such an act continues to perpetuates racist stereotypes and uphold racism. “Blackfacing” is wrong because it perpetuates stereotypes that lead to prejudice and racism.
An example of a prevailing, racial stereotype is to automatically associate and limit black identities to be someone who is an athlete or a rapper merely because they are black.
These costumes do not depict the everyday behaviour of the members of Roots, but rather leads the public to believe that the behaviour, skillset or career path of a miniscule percentile of the population is the norm.
By no means is this acceptable. We are urging everyone as they prepare for their Halloween outings and festivities this year, to say “No to black facing and cultural appropriation.”
Roots African Caribbean Society.