‘We’re Not a Costume’: Student Campaign Targets ‘Racist’ Halloween Costumes

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Courtesy of Students Teaching Against Racism

You may be able to hide behind a mask this Halloween, but what if that mask is an offensive representation of someone else’s culture?

A student group at Ohio University has started a campaign asking people to think twice before choosing Halloween costumes that openly project cultural stereotypes — from wearing blackface to dressing as Native Americans or “terrorist” Muslims.

The group, Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS), has only 10 people, but that hasn’t stopped their small movement from going viral. The students have created a collection of five posters that show students of different ethnicities holding pictures of an offending costume. Above, the slogan simply declares, “We’re a Culture, Not Costume. This Is Not Who I Am, And This Is Not Okay.”

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“We wanted to highlight these offensive costumes because we’ve all seen them,” STARS president Sarah Williams told ABC News. “We just wanted to say, ‘Hey, this is not cool. This is offensive and this shouldn’t be taken lightly.’ It’s offending a culture and people should be aware.”

This awareness is spreading fast across social networks and blogs — but not everyone is a fan. While the group has had its fair share of support, it’s also sparked chatter that they’re being overly sensitive — you know, about the fact that their cultural identities are being turned into caricatures.

On Williams’ Tumblr blog, she notes, “I am so overwhelmed from the responses from the posters,” yet she had to remove comments from her page due to the vast amount of responses — many of them negative.

While we understand that Halloween is supposed to be about fun, after looking at these posters, it’s impossible to argue that the value of these costumes outweighs their insulting message. And you know who agrees? Dogs and robots. They just want some respect, too.

Erin Skarda is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ErinLeighSkarda. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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