At least two universities are asking students to tone down their Halloween costumes so they're not offensive to certain cultures and don't perpetuate stereotypes.
At the University of Colorado, Boulder, Dean of Students Christina Gonzales said "making the choice to dress up as someone from another culture, either with the intention of being humorous or without the intention of being disrespectful, can lead to inaccurate and hurtful portrayals of other peoples' cultures in the CU community."
In a letter to students on the university's website, Gonzales said the school "has in the past witnessed and been impacted by people who dressed in costumes that included blackface or sombreros/serapes; people have also chosen costumes that portray particular cultural identities as overly sexualized, such as geishas, 'squaws,' or stereotypical, such as cowboys and Indians."
"Additionally, some students have also hosted offensively-themed parties that reinforce negative representations of cultures as being associated with poverty ('ghetto' or 'white trash/hillbilly'), or with crime or sex work," Gonzales wrote. "While everyone has the freedom to be expressive, we also encourage you to celebrate that you are a part of a vibrant, diverse CU community that strives toward respecting others."
The letter is indeed a suggestion, not a mandate, as university spokesman Bronson Hilliard told higher education website Campus Reform, and students won't be punished for wearing them — but the school dislikes them all the same.
"My people are ranch people from Montana," Hilliard told Campus Reform. "When you dress up as a cowboy, and you have your sheriff badge on and a big cowboy hat, that's not a representation of a cowboy, that's not a representation of people who work on a ranch, that's not a representation of people who live in the West, that's kind of a crude stereotype."
"If you're a hillbilly or white trash or ghetto something, your crude, kind of insensitive intentions aren't really that funny," Hilliard added.
Similar sentiments have been expressed at the University of Minnesota. There, the university's Office of Student Affairs emailed students to say some costumes "inappropriately perpetuate racial, cultural and gender stereotypes" and urged them to choose wisely.
The Oct. 10 letter was emailed to students at both Twin Cities campuses, warning students that photos that find their way to the Internet could haunt them for the rest of their lives, KMSP-TV in the Twin Cities reported, adding that two off-duty St. Paul police officers dressed as Somali women last year with traditional hijabs, outraging the Muslim community.
In addition, the University of Wisconsin, Madison's Multicultural Student Center published a blog, "Does this costume make me look racist?" Oct. 15 pointing out the ignorance that goes along with donning inappropriate costumes, KMSP said.
Here's a report from KMSP:
(H/T: U.K. Telegraph)