This Year’s Token Racist Costume
"We’ve respectfully developed these costumes knowing that Halloween is a time for humor and fun, and due to the overwhelming popularity of these items last year, we think it’ll be a huge hit with our shoppers again!" - Spirit Halloween
Space cowgirls in neon boots with convincing rubber spurs drunkenly hollering down the street from the block party; semi-mushy carved pumpkins glowing along the walkway to your neighbor’s rowhouse; face-painted children in capes and wearable cobwebs stuffing their faces with eccentrically flavored jelly beans; dogs loyal to their humans no matter what ridiculously uncomfortable costume they force them into.
There’s a gingerclown that menacingly sits in the front of the seasonal pop-up shop down by 12th and Chestnut that- without fail -pierces my skeleton with cold, bloodcurdling shivers every time I walk past it on my way home.
This is Halloween, and in the United States, we take our trickery and our treating seriously. Oftentimes, our penchant for ghoulish delights and magical mischief lasts for weeks before October 31st, and lingers like a welcome phantom (à la Casper the Friendly Ghost) for days afterwards. Other than trying horrifying drinks like the upcoming Starbucks Zombie Brains Frappuccino and practicing makeup using DIY YouTube tutorials before the big day, we prepare for Halloween (and, indeed, shamelessly prepare with the intention of looking the absolute best or the most convincing), by choosing a costume.
Halloween in the United States also comes with a long-standing tradition of companies capitalizing on culture, on sexual objectification, or on “topical” issues, by creating a slew of abhorrent and grotesque- but not in a fun and spooky way -costumes. In the past, we’ve seen pedophiliac costumes for young girls like “The Major Flirt”, “The Cop Cutie” (the name has since been changed, but the overall impression remains), and… I can’t believe I’m even typing this, but “The Child French Maid”. Equally as deranged are racially inappropriate or appropriative adult costumes, such as the “The Native American Seductress”, “The Pleasing Geisha”, and “The Tequila Bandito”.
Susan Scafidi, professor at Fordham University and author of Who Owns Culture: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, stated in an interview for Refinery29 this past month that: “Halloween as a holiday has a history of being focused on inversion of power. It’s about turning the daily world on its head. People dress up as celebrities, cops, politicians, and other powerful figures, and it's funny! But when you dress up as a culture that you are currently oppressing, or have subjugated in the past, you’re not inverting anything, you’re just kicking them when they are down… reinforcing current power structures in an offensive way.”
The token racist costume for 2017, the one that you’ll inadvertently find at the bar crawl, the club, your cousin’s house party, or even your child’s elementary Halloween parade, is a Border Patrol Enforcement officer, which can be paired with The Wall or sweetly coupled with a bloodied or drunken immigrant captured on the border. The gang's all here!
Amazing! You can even dress up your newborn as one of those officers that separates vulnerable families from one another, detains pregnant women, instills fear in hardworking undocumented immigrants, or deports people to their home countries where they encounter the dangers they were fleeing. How precious.
The costumes have reportedly been sold next to Donald Trump masks at establishments, making it wildly clear that the costumes connote a link between the Trump Administration’s knack for incendiary and demeaning speech at the expense of Latinos (lest we forget that many have been anxiously awaiting the rise of this wall to keep the “rapists” and “bad hombres” and “brown people who were more qualified than they were for a job” out).
Spirit Halloween, one of these stores that had the audacity to produce these costumes, released in a statement originally intended for Gothamist:
Spirit Halloween offers a full range of Halloween costumes that celebrate and appreciate all cultures, occupations and figures, both real and imaginary. With that, we playfully acknowledge topical themes - and building the wall is certainly a trending conversation in today’s political climate. We believe this costume carries similar sentiments akin to that of a police officer, military costumes, firefighter, doctor and more. As the president continues to drive the headlines and hashtags, we have costumes for everyone to join in on the fun, including: piggybacking on Mr. President, a host of masks that illustrate Trump’s many personas and a presidential BFF Putin mask. We’ve respectfully developed these costumes knowing that Halloween is a time for humor and fun, and due to the overwhelming popularity of these items last year, we think it’ll be a huge hit with our shoppers again!
Disappointingly- but not surprisingly -Spirit Halloween was correct in assuming the success of insensitive garb. “Agent Wall” and “Sexy Border Patrol Agent” have been two of their most popular costumes this year.