Ohio University student group Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) is reviving their 2011 social awareness campaign “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” in an effort to combat racially stereotypical costumes this Halloween season.
Featuring the tagline “You wear the costume for one night, I wear the stigma for life” the images have incited a discussion across the web about the appropriateness of some costume choices.
The campaign features a series of ads showing people of different races and ethnicities posing alongside some of the insensitive costumes many of us are used to seeing this time of year.
The images range from rappers and gang bangers, suicide bombers, Asian “mathletes” to even depicting African tribal women and an African American woman pregnant and smoking a cigarette.
After receiving criticism last year for failing to include Caucasian stereotypes this year’s campaign also includes a white man posing next to an “Appalachian” or “Redneck” costume.
STARS President Keith Hawkins, an Ohio University senior, spoke with CNN about the group’s decision to resurrect their “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” campaign to increase social awareness of the dangers of racial stereotyping:
“[We] decided to continue with the posters because we agreed that they were not only successful last year but actually made a difference on campus and in the global community … We were told by many professors that students wanted to talk about it, and this is exactly what we were looking to do. So we hoped we could put out another strong campaign this year that will continue the message of racial awareness and inclusiveness.”
So what exactly makes an offensive costume? Where is the line between homage and insult? Hawkins believes a costume falls into a questionable area when it portrays negative cultural stereotypes meant to poke fun at an already ostracized culture.
“When the costume portrays a hero or legend in general, I would say it is not offensive … It is the act of either using the hero or legend that over-exaggerates negative stereotypes that often stigmatize marginalized cultures that makes the costume offensive.”
What do you think about STARS efforts to combat racial stereotyping at Halloween with their “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” campaign? Do you think it will make some people think twice before deciding to go out as a “sexy geisha” or “pumped-up guido”?