My identity is not your costume

You should think twice before stepping out of the house as a Geisha or posting a picture dressed as a Mexican man for Halloween this year. Talks on freedom of expression and cultural insensitivity are an ongoing debate. And what a better time to have this conversation than now, as Our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s […]

You should think twice before stepping out of the house as a Geisha or posting a picture dressed as a Mexican man for Halloween this year.

Talks on freedom of expression and cultural insensitivity are an ongoing debate. And what a better time to have this conversation than now, as Our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s blackface images have surfaced.

Thinking twice before putting on a Halloween costume is something more students are doing. Although freedom of expression is something we value in our society, racism and discrimination are things we strive to eliminate as Canadians.

However, realizing a costume is insensitive shouldn’t be that difficult.

Costumes that reinforce stereotypes or that use traditional, ceremonial or religious garments are offensive.

“I think you should think twice before you buy anything when dressing up in costumes,” said Katie Duncan, a dental assisting student. “Our generation makes fast decisions, and I don’t think we’re taking the time to think about the outcomes.”

Costumes are deeper than just the mere fun of it all. There are consequences in terms of what message you are sending, especially as an adult.

“What’s important, I think, is to understand why a costume would be offensive rather than just thinking that it could be offensive,” said Gloria Nishimwe, a law clerk intensive student. “Trudeau is not the same person he was when he was doing blackface so I would give him the benefit of the doubt. It is important for him to set the example by opening that conversation and saying what he did is not okay.”

Although Algonquin College hasn’t yet created a protocol on Halloween costumes, one post-secondary institution that has is Brock University.

After a group of students dressed as blackface won a costume contest at the campus pub in 2014, the student union at Brock University created a Halloween Costume Protocol to combat racist costumes.

The protocol has since been put on the student union’s website where students can refer to a list of offensive costumes.

Algonquin students should remain conscious nonetheless. Dress up – but don’t reduce someone’s identity to your costume choice.

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