The Corner

This Halloween, Stay PC

From an email sent to students at the University of Wisconsin, according to Dominic Lynch of the College Fix:

Halloween: Questions to Ask Yourself before Donning a Costume

WEARING A FUNNY COSTUME?

Ask yourself: Is the humor based on “making fun” of real people, real human traits or cultures?Though intended to be funny, the “Mental Patient” costume by Disguise was considered demeaning, dehumanizing, and humiliating to individuals struggling with a mental illness and their families. Complete with a “Hannibal” type mask and a straightjacket, the costume reinforced stereotypes and fears about persons with mental illness.

WEARING A SCARY COSTUME?

Ask yourself: Is the “fear factor” based on real forms of violence or grotesque depictions of human traits? “This scary stud can empty out a full house just by walking through the door,” touts the tag line for Fright Catalog’s “Vato Loco” mask. The bandana clad, tattooed, brown-skinned vinyl creation makes light of gang violence, which takes a serious toll on families and neighborhoods across the country. The costume also sends the message that Latinos are violent.

WEARING A HISTORICAL COSTUME?

Ask yourself: If the costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies? The “Indian” get-up prevails each year as culture-turned-costume. But did you know few Native Americans wore buckskin and headbands and even fewer wore them together? Did you know “war paint” and feathers carry religious meaning and were never worn by Native American children?

WEARING A “BEAUTIFUL” COSTUME?

Ask yourself: If the costume is meant to be beautiful, are these characteristics drawn from commercial references, such as movie characters? Too often, beautiful at Halloween means white, blonde, princess masks. What statement does your Halloween costume make about what constitutes beauty — and about who is beautiful and who isn’t?

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.