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Students just say no to racist Halloween costumes

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With Halloween approaching, a student organization at Ohio University called Students Teaching Against Racism (STARS), consisting of less than ten members, created a series of posters intended to bring awareness to the possibly racist nature of certain Halloween costumes. The group aims "to educate and facilitate discussion about racism and to promote racial harmony and to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings."

Each poster in the campaign features the headline, "We're a culture, not a costume," and depicts college students of various ethnicities holding up photos which show individuals dressed in costumes which they maintain pokes fun at their heritage. One blogger named Melissa Sipin wrote about, and posted pictures of, the campaign on her website, and was forced to disable the comments due to "rude, racist people out there."

According to Melissa:

"These messages are for grownups who care when people cross the line between costumes that are similar to blackface minstrel shows and costumes that are just for fun. Another person brought up the scenario of a sad Caucasian person holding up a picture of a cowboy. There's a difference between cowboy costumes and, say, slutty geisha costumes. Cowboys are viewed reverently in American society while geishas are viewed as the Japanese high-class version of prostitutes, which isn't necessarily correct."

I think it's admirable that this group of students came together to highlight and reinforce the negative aspects of racial stereotyping. But until there's a Halloween-costume police force, I don't foresee that much changing in people's choosing of costumes. The attraction of Halloween outfits is dressing up as someone or something not yourself. It would be ridiculous to limit the wearing of particular ethnic garb to members of that particular ethnic group. What would be the point? This seems to be a divisive issue with no easy answers.