This Wednesday, exactly one week removed from the walkout that marked the biggest on-campus protest in nearly 40 years, another protest was held on Shaw Avenue south of the Save Mart Center.
Where fees and furloughs sparked fury last week, this protest had a different theme: the selling of racist costumes at Halloween Express.
The protest was much smaller – around 10 people – and involved no bullhorns or chants. One participant, who was also involved in the walkout and gave the alias “Chewy,” spoke about the group’s message:
“They have a couple of so-called Mexican costumes, they have a Mexican portrayed with a sombrero and a tequila bottle. They have Native American costumes that are offensive to Native American culture.” Chewy added that he himself was Mexican and that the store also sold “White Trash” costumes that the group found offensive.
The Collegian newsroom consists of many ethnicities and economic backgrounds. And yet no one who was shown pictures of the costumes could summon true emotion at the images.
The “Mexican with a Tequila bottle” costume was nowhere to be found inside, either as a reaction to the protest or because it had sold out. Halloween Express employee Ricardo Andrade said he simply hadn’t seen it recently.
But there were costumes of Mexicans sporting sombreros and mustaches to be found. A Native American costume featured traditional dress and a headband, which could be considered a stereotype.
However, if we are considering the appropriateness of these costumes, which are not necessarily meant to be accurate, questions inevitably arise about other costumes. There were snake charmer costumes sold in the store which could be considered insensitive to Middle Eastern cultures.
There were pimp costumes, which could offend African Americans. There were Leprechaun costumes, possibly odious to the Irish who had to drop the “O” from their surname at Ellis Island for fear of discrimination. And, as “Chewy” mentioned, “White Trash” costumes could upset white people.
But why stop at racism? The store sold priest outfits that no doubt would be worn to drinking parties. Pregnant nun outfits were available, surely an affront to devout Catholics who have decided to remain celibate and serve their God.
In fact, sexism seems to run rampant in the very definition of Halloween as adults see it. Men’s costumes are often used for comedic purposes, while many women’s costumes serve as an excuse to wear revealing clothing.
And what of overtly sexist costumes? Halloween Express sold one costume where the wearer – presumably a male – would dress up as a giant breast with a squeaking nipple. The package encouraged buying two at once so friends could go as a pair.
A key and lock two-person set and a similar socket-and-wall-outlet combo obviously would not work for the LGBT community who are fighting so hard for their rights.
If these examples, and indeed this entire argument, seem silly or provoke laughter, it is because they are intended to.
Halloween is a break from the stresses of everyday life, a chance to be careless and free for a night and wear a creative costume.
Ricardo Andrade, a shopper in the store and member of a Latino fraternity, may have said it best, “For me, I don’t take things to the heart… It’s just Halloween and time to have fun and not take things too seriously.”