Debate erupts over Halloween costumes crossing racial lines

Native American protesters stand outside the Phoenix office of Yandy.com, a retailer of "sexy Native American" costumes, Oct. 24, 2018. For some ethnic and racial groups, Halloween has long been haunted by costumes that perpetuate stereotypes and instances of cultural appropriation | Associated press photo by Terry Tang, St. George News

PHOENIX (AP) — When Colorado attorney Jeff Schwartz asked his 7-year-old son what he wanted to dress as this Halloween, the answer was clear: his favorite movie superhero, “Black Panther.”

Chadwick Boseman in a scene from “Black Panther.” NBC talk show host Megyn Kelly’s comments about blackface on Halloween have reinvigorated a debate over costumes that cross racial lines and what’s appropriate at a time when diverse movie and TV characters like “Black Panther” have become hugely popular | Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios/Disney via The Associated Press, St. George News

Schwartz said his white son’s choice of a black character didn’t give him pause.

“I didn’t give it a second thought,” said Schwartz. “I think that if my son wants to idolize a character — be it a black character or a white character — race doesn’t need to come into it at all.”

NBC talk show host Megyn Kelly’s comments about blackface on Halloween have reinvigorated a debate over costumes that cross racial lines and what’s appropriate at a time when diverse movie and TV characters like Black Panther have become hugely popular.

The issue has reverberated across social media, from magazine articles about white children wearing Black Panther costumes to protests against costumes that perpetuate Native American stereotypes. Social media debates have focused on whether political correctness is spoiling the spirit of the holiday.

The fallout was swift for Kelly, who wondered on her show why dressing up in blackface for Halloween is racist: NBC said Friday it was canceling “Megyn Kelly Today.” She found little support from her NBC colleagues, including Al Roker who called on her to apologize to people of color nationwide. He later was asked on Twitter if a woman’s white son was OK to dress as Black Panther.

“Sure he can. Just don’t try to wear dark makeup on,” Roker wrote.

Others chimed in on the thread, including Schwartz, whose son only wants to don the Marvel character’s vibranium suit.

“We should encourage our kids to have black heroes whether they’re white or black kids,” Schwartz said. “That’s healthy.”

Some articles warn white parents away from such a choice, arguing that while Black Panther’s fabled homeland “Wakanda” isn’t a real place, the character’s race is essential to his identity.

Elise Barrow, a black mother of three in New York City, said she and her husband tried to persuade their 5-year-old son to be Black Panther, but he opted to be a dinosaur instead. Barrow said she was torn by the debate.

“Kids want to be what they want to be. I’m not going to prevent them,” Barrow said. “If my son wants to be Captain America, I’m not going to say no.”

A similar issue cropped up in recent years with the animated features “Moana,” set in ancient Polynesia, and Pixar’s “Coco,” which centers on a Mexican boy named Miguel and his family. A few months before “Moana’s” November 2016 release, Disney pulled a costume based on the character of Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson. The ensemble included a brown bodysuit with Polynesian tattoos and a faux-grass skirt. Some argued that it was off-putting to have a child wear the skin of another race.

Jim Quirk, a white father of three in St. Paul, Minnesota, said adults should stop projecting concerns about race and gender onto what is essentially “a kids’ holiday.”

“They want to be princesses, doctors, Black Panther or whatever,” Quirk said. “They do it because they want to be like them. It’s adults who put meaning onto these things.”

But he acknowledges there are some things that are over the line, such as blackface.

“You shouldn’t be disrespectful,” Quirk said.

Calling out cultural appropriation is what drives Amanda Blackhorse, a longtime activist against the use of Native images for mascots and logos. On Wednesday, Blackhorse and others demonstrated outside the Phoenix headquarters of Yandy.com, a lingerie company that has been selling “sexy” Native costumes, including one marketed as “Chief Wansum Tail.”

Amanda Blackhorse speaks through a megaphone while protesting outside the Phoenix office of Yandy.com, a retailer of “sexy Native American” costumes, Oct. 24, 2018. For some ethnic and racial groups, Halloween has long been haunted by costumes that perpetuate stereotypes and instances of cultural appropriation | Associated Press photo provided by Douglas Miles, St. George News

Her group delivered an online petition with thousands of signatures calling on Yandy to stop using Native American culture for costumes.

“The people have always looked at or seen Native people through stereotypes — through headdresses, buckskin and fringe,” Blackhorse said. “This company is perpetuating that. They think that’s who we are. They don’t see us as different tribes.”

The group wants Yandy to discontinue the line, issue an apology and donate any proceeds from the costumes to agencies that help Native American women. A spokeswoman for Yandy did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Yandy’s far from the only retailer offering such costumes. Amazon.com and other mainstream sites offer Halloween-wear based on Asian stereotypes such as a geisha or “dragon lady.” There are also Mexican-inspired outfits that include a poncho, sombrero and mustache and a “sexy senorita” dress.

Kelly’s blackface comments, meanwhile, left many outraged.

“Back when I was a kid that was OK as long as you were dressing up as like a character,” Kelly said in discussion with an all-white panel.

Blackface dates back to the 1830s when white performers would put on dark makeup, wigs and exaggerated costumes, mocking slaves, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. They often depicted black people as lazy, ignorant or cowardly. A century later, movie stars like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland wore blackface on screen.

Written by TERRY TANG, Associated Press.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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14 Comments

  • Real Life October 27, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    Who is not offended anymore? How come the Irish are not offended by Notre Dame and leprechauns? How about Norweigan people for the unfair portrayal of Vikings? Maybe the English should be angry because women dress up like witches, since it was their ancestors burned at the stake in Salem. Seriously, where do you draw the line? I got a better idea. Grow thicker skin and get over yourself already.

  • DRT October 27, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    People love to try to be victims, they love to be outraged over anything, everything and most of all nothing.
    It’s about time to put on the big girl panties and find something worthwhile to do.

  • Marilyn Manson October 27, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    Poor snowflakes. I swear if I see a bone white person dressed like a white person I might just have to go find a safe space.

    • Craig October 27, 2018 at 8:18 pm

      Perfect

    • Icomments2 October 27, 2018 at 8:27 pm

      Nest comment I’ve read in awhile!!! Thank you for the laugh!!! People need to grow up and move out of mommy and daddy’s basement and grow a pair and try living in the real world of reality!!! Halloween is for the kids to dress up however they want and have e some fun for one night!!! Its already bad enough they can’t do it on Sunday here cuz they say its a school night, but what are all the other nights during the week!!! Hmm well I have my opinion on that one!!! Thank god for Trump and the the Red wave win Nov. 6th!!!

  • mesaman October 27, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    This country seems to be trading it’s civility and freedom for the thin skinned whiners constantly tracking innocuous trivial behaviors in the name of Political Correctness. PC is the social cancer of the 21st century.

  • Craig October 27, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    I am sick of the racist left measuring everything by dividing us up. This is horse manure.

  • utahdiablo October 27, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    Just remember to get the hell out and VOTE RED on November 6th….No excuse for not voting

  • KR567 October 28, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    Everything is offensive now

  • KR567 October 28, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    Here’s a funny one ! St George news posts offensive pictures lol !

  • TinFoilHat October 29, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Vote red indeed. You all give Republicans a bad name. On the day this was published, the same day that 11 people were killed purely out of racial hatred by a sick man leaning just barely to the right of you, you all have the gall, the cowardly, sick, heartless compulsion to ridicule people who feel threatened by racism. You are so heartless and lack any imagination whatsoever, no wonder this world is so screwed up with people like you lacking empathy. You cannot even comprehend your own racism! You say things like “People need to grow up” or “grow a pair” or “put on the big girl panties” (nice, let’s be overt sexists too) — it seems to me like these people HAVE grown up by standing up to your racist, sexist stupidity and saying enough is enough. That’s what they are telling you, politely, and within the framework of civil protest that is protected by our constitution that you claim to love so much. Shame! You disgust me. White people have a long history of imperialism and destruction of cultures around the world. That is a fact. White people in America enslaved black people. That is a fact. Black people had to fight hard for their freedom and full citizenship. That is a fact. Since I can’t think of any out-and-out genocide or racism against white people, I will have to use a less-than-ideal analogy to get your attention: what if a group of Muslims started making light of 9/11? What if they had parties with box cutters and flaming twin tower cakes and made light of people jumping out of those buildings. How would you feel? “Oh we’re just joking, having fun. Grow a pair! If you don’t like it, move!” That is the nut of your stupid, racist and insensitive crap. You want to know what is really wrong with this world, look in the mirror.

    • Real Life October 29, 2018 at 4:03 pm

      I am not screaming vote red. But I am sick of people like you who think you got it so bad, and are offended by every little thing. And civil protest? Have you seen the behavior of “your” people? Get over yourself already chicken little, the sky is not falling.

      • TinFoilHat October 29, 2018 at 5:18 pm

        I’m a white male and I’m not really offended by every little thing. But thanks for affirming your underlying racism. I’m just calling it like I see it, I have somehow gained the ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes and try to understand their point of view. And believe me, there is plenty of PC crap that I don’t agree with. This is not PC crap. This is overt racism, and you seem unwilling to accept that. From the article: “Blackface dates back to the 1830s when white performers would put on dark makeup, wigs and exaggerated costumes, mocking slaves, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. They often depicted black people as lazy, ignorant or cowardly.” Real Life, you are actually going to tell me that white people wearing blackface is not racist and we should all just shut up and tolerate that?

        And civil protest? Have I seen the behavior of “my” people? I really don’t know what you are talking about, unless you are British and still mad about Americans dumping your tea overboard. Our founding fathers behaved that way. Lincoln. Jesus. MLK. Ghandi. That kind of behavior has made the world a better place, as opposed to racist, nationalist ideologies you are intentionally or unintentionally aligning yourself with. I mean seriously, why don’t you just show a little compassion for people, they are just asking for respect.

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