OPINION: Insensitive Halloween costumes

Kalyn Johnson is a columnist for the College Heights Herald. 

Kalyn Johnson


When we think of blackface, we may think of early 1900’s America, when African Americans were not prominent actors but instead white actors covered their bodies in black paint or charcoal to portray African Americans. As we approach Halloween, I find it necessary to remind our student body that dressing up as a character who is not of your race is acceptable, but coloring your skin to look like that individual is unacceptable and makes you looks insensitive.

The New York Time’s Black Voices columnist Zeba Blay believes that “At this point, it has been thoroughly established on nearly every corner of the internet that blackface is bad. The history of blackface, with its roots in racist minstrel shows, has been outlined. The racist implications of blackface, the way it stereotypes, exaggerates and demeans black features, has been explained.” I wholeheartedly agree with Blay. We are living in an era where the world is at our fingertips. As college students, we should know better than to be so insensitive, but we also know this isn’t the case due to past circumstances. The Washington Post reported that University of Central Arkansas student, Brock Denton, dressed up as Bill Cosby and painted his face black. The post reports that Denton “posted a photograph of his seemingly purposefully offensive costume to his Instagram account with the caption ‘It was a bold night.’” Denton was promptly expelled from his fraternity.

As students with some form of intellect, we would also think that faculty and staff would know not to wear blackface. However, a faculty member at the University of Oregon was suspended for doing so in 2016. In a statement released to The Los Angeles Times, the University of Oregon Provost Scott Coltrane stated that Nancy Shurtz’s costume “forced our campus to face some very difficult truths about racism, ignorance and the state of inclusivity on our campus. Her costume mimicked the historic stereotype of blackface and caused offense to many who witnessed it.”

While I have never seen a professor or student go to class in culturally insensitive costumes in my years at WKU, I think it necessary to remind everyone that blackface is not acceptable.

Blackface is not only racially insensitive but outright hurtful. It is the mocking of another human being without thinking of where blackface came from. It is to completely disregard the struggles of African Americans and take America almost a century back in progression. I’m not saying we cannot dress up as Beyonce, just don’t wear blackface. Buy yourself a beautiful yellow dress and do your best to sing “Hold Up” while swinging a baseball bat with “Hot Sauce” scribbled in black marker.