A Culture, not a Costume


Ohio University has a well-known reputation for having one of the largest Halloween celebrations in the United States, and yes, the pressure of a perfect costume is oh so real. Every year around this time, I scramble to come up with a costume that’s original and entertaining.

As I browsed the web last week for ideas, I came across a list, posted by US Weekly, of celebrity Halloween costumes from 2012. On the list was a horrifying and disheartening picture of Chris Brown and his friends posing as “Arabs”. The R&B singer is notorious for his violent behavior, and once again, had tainted his image with this discriminating photo:

chris brown image

(Chris Brown in center)

In a radio interview Brown commented on the backlash he received from the outfit, nearly yelling into the microphone, “It’s nobody’s mother—-ing business and everybody who’s really mad about it, “F— y’all.”

If you aren’t shaking your head in disgust yet, he also stated, “I was dressed as the people we killed” in his attempt to justify the costume.

Now I could rant forever (no pun intended) about my hatred for Chris Brown and his ignorant comments, but the truth is, this occurrence is not just another publicity stunt, but an issue that runs much deeper. Sadly, his abusive photo is only one of many posted by American’s wearing similar costumes on Halloween.

If I am to be honest, I have heard of people dressing up in offensive costumes before, but thought little about the negative impact it had on others. Now that I have begun to study the religion of Islam and the Middle East, I find these “terrorist” costumes to be less than funny and beyond disgusting.

Some may not think twice about racist costumes, and others may claim that they are all in good fun and shouldn’t be taken seriously, but, the damaging effects of these costumes are catastrophic, contributing to violent and prejudice acts against Muslims in the U.S.

A 2012 article by The Journal of Muslim Mental Health posted a study that reported a 1,700 percent increase of hate crimes against Muslims post 9/11. This statistic exemplifies the seriousness of what may seem as petty as a costume.

These costumes depict Arabs as violent terrorists who casually carry weapons with intentions of killing white Americans. Muslims are not costumes, and most certainly are not terrorists. They should never be defined as such, under any circumstance, which includes “just for fun”. Discrimination and prejudice is not a lighthearted topic in any situation, even on a holiday like Halloween.

In 2011, before Brown’s distasteful display, a few Ohio University students created a campaign to end these costumes and others of its kind. The student org, Students Teaching About Racism in Society, posted flyers to communicate the severity of racist costumes on Halloween. The group received a lot of negative backfire.

What to me is an obvious atrocity has become a controversy on the Internet and social media. My opposers would say my message is too sensitive, and over dramatizing what’s meant to be just a comical display.

What do you think? Do you believe these costumes are simply costumes and should be taken as such? Or, do you feel they contribute to racial oppression?

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7 thoughts on “A Culture, not a Costume

  1. This is a great blog. I definitely agree that they contribute to racial oppression. A lot of people think this is OK or simply don’t think twice about it, and I think a lot of this is due to the lack of education on the Middle East. Many Americans don’t understand a lot of the issues and culture in the Middle East, making it easier for them to generalize an entire group of people into one offensive costume. I think if more people were educated on these topics, there would be less offensive costumes and no feelings hurt.

  2. While reading this, I could not help but to think of Jess’s post this week. Many people ask why we have joined the GLC program, or better yet, why it is relevant. This is a perfect reason. After learning many interesting facts about Arab Society and their culture, it is disheartening to see people turning costumes into a subject of racial oppression, which I do think is happening here. I’m sure most people people that partake in actions such as these, have no real education on the actual matter. I think the program as a whole holds a powerful and strong voice. We can take it upon ourselves to share the massive amounts of knowledge that we are obtaining about issues relative to this.

  3. Halloween is such as silly holiday and as Americans we always seem to take everything too far. It does not surprise me that Rapper Chris Brown would be so ignorant to contribute to racial oppression. As a celebrity you are looked up to by many young men and women and, for him to be so insensitive to racism shows how little he really knows about what is going on in the Middle East. Unfortunately, sometimes racism is the result of a lack of knowledge and is somewhat unintentional but, this obviously is not the case all the time. So if you think something is going to offend someone you probably should think twice.

  4. I definitely agree with the many points you brought up and I believe these costumes should not be taken light-heartedly and they DO contribute to racial oppression. I can see how our peers many think we are being over dramatic-but that is because we are not victims of this atrocity and do not get constant reminders of discrimination. Chris Brown is ignorant on the subject and just really needs to stop talking because the comments that came out of his mouth were irrational and arrogant; which clearly made him come across as feeling no remorse for his racism. Great blog and topic-I really enjoyed reading what you had to say.

  5. Seeing that picture of Chris Brown and friends is really sad. Just a typical person dressing up in that way is clearly obscenely offensive but to know that you have a large and impressionable audience to still dress up in such a way is sad. I remember the posters around campus last year on this same topic, and it’s disappointing to me that people struggle to see why these kind of costumes are inappropriate on their own.

  6. I 100% think that these costumes contribute to racial oppression. It is one thing to dress up as a police officer and carry around a fake gun- normal, part of their work uniform, but suggesting that all Arabs are gun carrying, violent, terrorists through these costumes is not by any means okay. However, it is not surprising to me that Chris Brown was one of these people. He has proved himself to be extremely ignorant more than once, but it is incredibly shameful and disrespectful that he is aiming it toward the whole Arab society, insinuating that they are all out to harm Americans. Pathetic.

  7. I definitely feel that these costumes contribute to racial oppression. Americans tend to believe that the excuse “just for fun” is a good one, especially when it comes to Halloween, but these costumes are obvious examples of how people in this country have been socialized (by their families, the news, etc.) into their beliefs about Arabs. As for the campaign that OU students did, while it received a lot of backlash (as most semi-radical things do), it also received national attention and support. It also helped kick start several similar campaigns at universities around the nations, creating a national dialogue around this very topic.

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