Halloween is a little more than a week away, which means haunted houses, horror movies, and costume parties are on most of our agendas. Unfortunately, as is the case every year, offensive Halloween costumes are all but guaranteed to make an appearance. And it seems as though some people are still confused about why certain costumes should be off limits.
On the October 23rd episode of Megyn Kelly Today, host Megyn Kelly revealed that she doesn’t understand why wearing blackface on Halloween is racist. She began the segment with a story about how the U.K.’s Kent University has banned certain offensive costumes this year. Many of the banned outfits made the list because they perpetuate racist stereotypes; “Mexican” clothes like sombreros and sarapes were prohibited, as were Native American costumes. But Kelly questioned the idea that a Halloween get-up could be racist, and said that “political correctness has gone amok.”
Panelists Jenna Bush Hagar and Melissa Rivers argued that there is a line when it comes to costumes and that people should try not to offend others with their selections. But Kelly doubled down on her argument. She cited Luann de Lesseps from Real Housewives of New York, a white woman who was criticized for dressing as Diana Ross on Halloween 2017.
Kelly is using a common defense of racist and offensive costumes—it’s homage, so it should be okay. However, what this line of reasoning conveniently ignores is that white people have been dressing as racist caricatures to mock people of color for centuries. As Vox notes, in the 19th century, white actors routinely painted their skin black for Jim Crow-era minstrel shows, in which black characters were depicted as exaggerated, dehumanizing stereotypes. White people darkening their skin for costumes has a very real and painful history in this country.
After the swift and widespread backlash to her comments, Kelly issued an internal apology to colleagues, the contents of which has been obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. In it, she wrote, “One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get the chance to express and hear a lot of opinions. Today is one of those days where listening carefully to other points of view, including from friends and colleagues, is leading me to rethink my own views.”
Kelly has yet to make a public, non-internal apology for her comments.
Let this incident serve as an important reminder that other cultures are not costumes, no matter what day of the year it is.