Let’s not be offensive on Halloween: Our handy primer

This last week, horrible Halloween costume photos surfaced the Internet: it seems that dressing up as Ray and Janay Rice is A Thing. And I’m really, really sad about this. Ray Rice — the football player who punched his then-fiancée in an elevator — is being glamorized (and, in some cases, being portrayed in blackface), and that is just all kinds of not OK and offensive. Since the Internet is sometimes the terrible gift that keeps on giving, we also came across a real Sexy Ebola costume. Another idea that is just all kinds of wrong.

So, I think it’s time to have a little talk about what NOT to wear on Halloween, because even though Halloween naturally lends itself to humor and humor can be used to deal with very serious, ghastly things, there is a line we just can’t cross. Because no matter how clever or original we think we are being, there are certain costumes that are bound to make others feel badly, and we ALL need to be aware of that. Halloween is supposed to be fun! Let’s not ruin it for others with ignorance. Here are some costumes we definitely need to rule out:

1. Anything that appropriates a culture

Don’t dress up as: a Native American (that means no headdress, war paint, etc.), a (racist) Mexican stereotype (no sombrero, poncho, or mustache ), Geisha (no Kimonos, chopsticks-in-bun), or Rabbi (no kippah, prayer shawl, or Peyes). It’s not cool to borrow sacred and culturally significant attire from other cultures and use it for your Halloween costume because you are reducing it down to just that: a costume.

2. Anything blackface

Please no. Just don’t do it. Remember what happened when Julianne Hough dressed up as Crazy Eyes from OITNB? I think she meant no harm, but when a white person dons blackface, it conjures the awfulness and racism of the past. Blackface still represents racism, bigotry, violence, and oppression, so let’s not do blackface. Ever.

3. A terrorist 

I know it might seem “funny” to dress up like a terrorist for Halloween because you feel like you are deeming this group as a laughable, insignificant entity, but guess what? These individuals are very dangerous. They have killed thousands, and we must not downplay this. It would be like dressing up as Hitler, and once again, glamorizing violence and corruption. Furthermore, it’s incredibly disrespectful to individuals who have suffered at the hands of terrorists.

4. Anything involving a recent catastrophe

That means no Ebola-related costumes, and nothing that references Malaysia Airlines flight attendants. And yes I saw that on the Internet, and yes that made me really upset. To dress up as victims of a plane crash or a pandemic, is to completely disrespect both grieving family members, and those who lost their lives in these tragedies.

5. Anything that pokes fun at a celebrity going through a crisis, or a recently deceased celebrity 

In general, avoid dressing up a celebrity who is going through a tough time, or struggling with their inner demons. Also not OK: dressing as one of the brilliant celebrities who died this year with costumes that specifically mock their tragic passing. It’s disrespectful to their family and to their memory. Don’t turn tragic deaths into jokes.

Look, we know it’s sometimes easy to get swept up in the Halloween madness, but it never hurts to do a sensitivity check before you leave the house. Are you mocking something serious? Are you appropriating another culture? Are you disrespecting anyone with your outfit? If yes, you probably want to rethink your game-plan. There are plenty of costumes out there that won’t offend anyone, and totally crush it at whatever party you’re going to. In the words of Ron Burgundy (there’s a costume idea), stay classy.

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