Columnist Jaslina Paintal
It’s that time of the year again, when white people pull out their racist and unfunny costumes for Halloween. While people of color, every single year, have the undue burden of calling white people out for appropriating, disrespecting and portraying our cultures as racist stereotypes, white people keep on keeping on.
Some responses white folks sprinkle all over social media to defend such racist costumes are these variations of white tears: “I didn’t mean for it to look like that,” “That’s not racist, I can dress however I want” and the infamous “I’m not a racist” (which comes with a side dish of implication that because you don’t view yourself as racist, nothing that you do can ever be racist).
First, let me break things down: White people, you do not get to decide what is or isn’t racist. You don’t get to decide what is or is not blackface or brownface. As a member of the dominant culture whose existence depends on the exploitation and oppression of people of color, you do not get to determine what is or is not appropriation because frankly, you have no valid opinion in the matter. You do not belong to the cultures you are portraying, so any attempt to police us on how to feel is simply unjustifiable.
Next, let me tell you what your costume racism does. Your costumes — blackface, fake grills, sombreros and headdresses — directly feed the historical mandate that our cultures, our very skin, our art and our heritage exist to be bought and consumed for entertainment.
Costume racism tells us that the very identities we are oppressed under — identities that are oftentimes deeply connected to our culture — can be stolen and sensationalized by those privileged to immunity from such dehumanization.