Dressing up stereotypes

Haisten Willis / The Collegian

Group protests the sale of racial Halloween costumes.

A week after the largest protest staged at California State University, Fresno in nearly 40 years took place, activists staged a smaller demonstration Wednesday in protest of racially insensitive Halloween costumes.

A group of protesters, consisting of Fresno State students and activists from the surrounding community, held signs and flagged down cars in front of the Halloween Express store on East Shaw avenue across from the Save Mart Center.

“We were basically protesting a couple of costumes being sold at [Halloween Express] that are very offensive to me and people out here,” said a Fresno State student who would only identify himself as “Chewy.”

Chewy, who protested with members of Fresno State’s on campus organization, Dia De Los Muertos, said that he was personally offended when he saw a costume that portrayed a stereotypical Mexican male wearing a sombrero and holding a Tequila bottle.

“Being that I was born in Mexico and being that I am a native of this land, I feel that when people start demeaning one culture, whether it be Mexican, Native America, Asian or white, it offends me,” Chewy said. “I hate to see my culture being pimped.”

The near hour-long protests garnered polarizing responses from passers-by, according to Chewy.

“Most Fresno State students seem to be very supportive of the demonstration,” Chewy said. “But, there are some members of the community that have given us the finger or have booed us. They generally seem to be in disagreement with what’s going on.”

Earlier this month several major retail chains sparked outrage from immigrant advocates after a Halloween costume depicting a space creature in an orange prison uniform inscribed with the words “illegal alien” was sold. Some of the costumes were removed from store shelves. The broader implication, however, centers on the debate regarding the U.S. government’s designation of foreigners as aliens.

“In doing some research online, we found that [Halloween express] was the only one still carrying them around here,” Chewy said.

Forty-five minutes into the protest, the stores manager Mike Olson met briefly with the protesters while they expressed their grievances.

According to Olson, Halloween Express’ corporate headquarters handles the majority of the stocking for the store and he knew only vaguely of the costumes that sparked the outrage.

“From where we are, it’s a customer based business,” Olson said. “If it is something that turns them off, then we’re not forcing or putting it out in front and saying ‘hey, this is something we promote.’”

However, Olson said that he recognizes that some people might take offense to some costumes.

“For sure, people might find [the costumes] offensive,” Olson said. “But for the general consensus of the public, I don’t think we do anything beyond what is considered acceptable.”

Inside the store The Collegian found seven instances of racially themed costumes including a costume which depicted an Arabic Sheik replete with a thick black mustache, a Native American dressed in brown buckskin-like clothing complete with a headdress and a white trash costume that consists of an off-colored trash can bearing the words “white thrash.”

At Halloween Express, the responses were mixed from shoppers.

Ricardo Andrade, a Fresno State student and a member of a Latino fraternity, said that he was not offended by any of the costumes inside of the store.

“For me I don’t take things to the heart,” Andrade said. “It’s Halloween, have a little fun.”

Although Halloween Express employee Javier Espinoza said that he was shocked when he saw a costume of a Mexican male wearing a poncho and holding a beer, he feels that the Halloween is a time to have fun.

“It’s all fun and games,” Espinoza said. “Some people might get offended but I really don’t care but I really don’t care…it’s cool.”

However, he said that if someone complained about the costumes and the company decided to remove them from the shelves he wouldn’t mind.

“People got a right ya know?”

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