Human Skin Tones are NOT Costumes

SO, YOU DECIDED TO APPEAR AS CHARACTER FOR A HALLOWEEN PARTY. The character is Afro-American. You are a white person. So you decide to go blackface for a Halloween costume. At this point, I’ll have to ask you few questions:

Do you know what unfortunate implications your are telling? How and why do you figure you have to paint yourself in blackface to be a black character at all? Honestly, do you think my skin tone, is a prop? A costume? More importantly, a part of my character? Do you believe my character is worn on my skin? Do you think that skin and character are one in the same?

Maybe being a person of color makes me see this in a different way than you (assuming you are not). As a child growing up (I really don’t do costumes anymore), I was always pretending to be someone else. Spock, Mega Man, Donatello, Gambit, Guile, to name a few. All of these “characters” are people who do not in any way resemble me. Never once did it occur to me that I had to change my skin color to “be” them. The “look” is all in the props and action. Granted, as a kid playing in the middle of the street and in the woods behind my city block, a full costume wasn’t really necessary; Donatello only needed a tall stick with pizza on the side, and the city streets have claimed many decks of my father’s cards in the name of Gambit of X-Men fame.

These characters are still a part of me in a way; had I been a serious Halloween fellow one of these guys would be my costume. If I told you I was going to dress up like Elvis for the Halloween Costume Contest, do you think it would be a requirement for me to whiten my skin to pull off the look? Or do you think stuff like the signature hair, the signature jumpsuit, and signature hip swivels would be more important?

Cosplaying black folk don’t usually find it necessary to lighten their skin when they dress up as various fictional (or real) characters. So it is not necessary for white people to darken their skins to do the same thing. Of course you can do it, if you like to have your ignorance on display for the world to see, that is. But the point of dressing up is not to look exactly like your character of choice (and you never will). It’s to take on their essence. If people can’t guess who you are based on clothing, props, and behavior, you have no business trying to be that character. This is why I think simulating skin color is “gratuitous,” to say the least.

For example, I am of sound judgement and intelligence to understand that I don’t have to go into whiteface to be Spock in a Halloween party. The pointy ears, Star Trek suit, helmet-head wig and a stoic demeanor would get the point across. Gambit? A brown trench coat, the hair, and a deck of cards (or two) to show. Sure, sometimes color matters. Sometimes, the color of a character IS a part of them. Hulk? Green. Smurfette? Blue. But a white guy doesn’t have to put soot on his face to be Flava Flav; the giant clock necklace alone is enough. In the same manner that a black guy doesn’t have to go whiteface to be Superman; the red and blue tights with the ‘S’ on the chest and cape, is enough.

If you think you need to paint your face to capture the essence of a character, trust me when I tell you that you are perhaps not racist, but racially ignorant. Not a bigot, but a big dummy. So to the racially oblivious — human skin tones are not costumes. And that’s the Bigger Picture.

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  • crash102

    I’ve been following the site for a week or so now and I’ve been reading your articles. Is this the only thing you ever talk about? How racist white people are? It seems like the only thing you know to say is that white people are a bunch of racists. A few morons dress up in black face and suddenly all white people are ignorant racists. I think it’s you that is the racist here. Judging by what you keep saying over and over, I think you really have a lot of hate in your heart for white people.

    • ebbflow

      Big difference in calling someone racially ignorant and calling them racist. I feel the point of the article was to educate not to bash whites. It’s as simple as being aware of what your actions can imply. Anyone that knows the history of blackface and chooses to wear it anyway, I wouldn’t call them racist just an insensitive prick!

      • crash102

        I suppose you have a point. But this is like the fourth article I’ve read from this guy talking about racist white people.

  • The Bigger Picture

    Crash, I suggest you take, a “crash course” in reading and comprehension. I did not state, or imply, or infer that ALL white people are racist. In addition, I DO note the difference between being racist, and racially ignorant — I EXPLICITLY STATED THIS.

    However, I DO point out those that are. Ignoring problems don’t solve problems Crash. Voices WILL be heard on this. If you are white and you are upset, can IMAGINE HOW UPSET people of color are that they are represented as such?

    I speak — thus give voice in awareness — social problems and cultural ills that need to be addressed. If you are offended, butthurt, or whatever, I suggest you police up those who perpetrate this cultural ill. Don’t come at me backwards. Don’t hop into projection fallacies. If you had any sense to actually address this problem when you see your friends do it…. or anyone… we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    Your “blame the victim” strategy is disgusting; check your boys on this costume shit for 2014 and beyond. If you address this crap before I do, that would be pretty damn efficient.

  • I imagine that you are mad. Perhaps you should be. If you want to own what I say (despite the fact that I do not infer of imply any superlatives looking like “all whites”) I suggest to harden up and then address this to those who think this is a good idea.

    I layed down my own personal experiences with costumes here; as a child, and as an adult.

    I almost wanted to be snarky, challenging you to find ANYWHERE, where have I EVER said, “all whites”. You will NEVER find that. I wish for you to ENLIST in our aid; you telling someone to stop the madness may be a whole lot better than coming from me. I seek to be inclusive; we need your assistance. However, you WILL have to KNOW the problem before addressing it. The matter will be outlined. Ignoring problems do not solve them. Forgive me if I wish to not ignore, shove under a rug, the social ills of our nation and culture.

    When someone thinks, my skin color is a costume… or my character is my skin color… THAT, is a problem. Do not come at me backwards calling me a racist, because I point out racism (would you call someone ‘sexist’, for pointing out sexual harassment at your job?). If you REALLY want to combat racism, I suggest listening (clearly), stop seeing superlative speak that isn’t there, and start rolling up your sleeves.

  • Another thing I feel the urge to comment one: your accusation of hate.

    Crash, I picture you are intelligent, but just caught up in feelings. Why because honestly if I didn’t love all people — to include white people — I wouldn’t care to point out wrongs, errors in ways, flawed reasoning, things missed. I love everyone, including white people. I pains me to see people embrace the idiot ball on race matters though, and I seek to correct them.

    Criticism isn’t born from hate. Not this type, that is.

    If you had a son or daughter trying to ride a bike, and they are doing it wrong, wouldn’t you point a few things out? Teach them? That’s what this is about.

    So maybe you are angry… direct that anger into action and inform people of what they are doing wrong. Don’t support this stuff when you see it. SPEAK UP, because your silence tells folks that it’s okay… and when you do that, that’s when I have to step in and say the things you are either unwilling or incapable of.

    It can begin with you.

  • VegardSBekkenheim

    As a white person, I can’t actually feel pain and anger when someone with a different skin color trying to emulate my skin, using makeup. And I suppose that is because historically, I haven’t been oppressed and made fun as an entire race, with my white skin as a weapon against me. To me, the color of the skin is meaningless, and if it wasn’t for the knowledge that it would offend people, I would probably darken my skin if I was dressing up as a non-white person for Halloween, just to look more authentic. A homage to the character, black, asian, white, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t think that concept in itself is wrong, but I do see that because of the suffering which still exist today, one can refrain from choosing a theme which would offend people. It’s supposed to be a celebration. But what I think is stupid is to dress up as character of a different race without changing skin color. Considering other people’s emotions is good, but trying to deny that asians or africans look different from whites is just pointless and borderline crazy. Coming as a white Mr T to a Halloween party would look like the biggest sarcastic statement against PC ever. So stick with a race neutral costume or someone of your own race.

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