I loved Halloween as a kid. Running around in the dark, half spooked, breath ghosting the air, feeling my pillowcase get heavier and heavier with wonderful things like chips and chocolate bars. There were stories of older kids stealing candy from younger ones. I thought how unspeakably cruel that was, but I never knew anyone that had that happen to them. Then when I was 14 living in Boulder, Colorado, there was a scare of some kind–someone tampering with Halloween treats. I wondered how twisted did a person have to be to do something like that. Everyone was a little worried.
Now there are teal pumpkins to protect kids with food allergies by signifying homes giving out allergy safe treats. Seems like a great idea… sad that it has to be done but for whatever reason food allergies seem to be a lot more prevalent and teal pumpkins help Halloween to be inclusive of everyone, including the kid with a deathly tree nut allergy. There is also a conversation about Halloween costumes, the ones that are offensive to some because they are seen to be culturally insensitive and inappropriate. To others, the conversation itself is offensive. But to a big majority is seems to be a conversation that bewilders. From the comments made on cross Country Check-up tonight, people don’t seem to know what the fuss is about. The vast majority agree that “black face” is offensive but don’t seem to know what to do with other cultural and religious depictions in costume.
Most people don’t have the intention of hurting anyone with a costume, and yet nevertheless, costumes apparently have the ability to hurt people. I think this is indisputable because people have said , “That costume hurts and offends me.” It doesn’t matter that someone doesn’t mean to hurt a person, it still hurts. People may say another person has no reason to hurt. It’s just an innocent costume, they say. Some people will be concerned enough to change their costume because they don’t want to hurt the people who expressed their feelings. It’s when people get angry to be told that a costume is insensitive, hurtful and offensive, that I begin to think that they feel threatened to be told they have even inadvertently done something that hurt another person. It’s weird because if someone stepped on another person’s foot without meaning to, and were told that it hurt, they wouldn’t get red in the face and tell the person they’d hurt that they have no reason to hurt, that they are infringing on their rights by telling them they’ve been hurt. They’d get off the person’s foot, apologize,and try not to do it again.
I think the problem is really that people like me, raised in a society which has oppressed and violated and destroyed whole cultures, don’t see it or don’t want to see it. Both are problems for the people at the other end of that oppression.
There’s a big and interesting conversation to be had about how to address this problem. I see it as a problem, when the stated feelings of people are not acknowledged. Some think that legislating bans against certain types of costumes is the way to go. I don’t really know. Rules can be a helpful tool to creating social change and changing minds, but it seems like there should be better ways. It always does seem like there should be better ways, and there are, if only we would use them.
Listening to the people who say they are hurt would be a start. Not brushing them off, not talking over them, and not dismissing their feelings as nonsense. I have learned the hard way that I should shut up sometimes and not talk, but listen. I recommend it as a starting point to a meaningful conversation with hurting people.