OPINION: The Halloween Costumes White People Probably Should Avoid | Messages


Halloween is fast approaching, which means it’s time once again for whites to get in trouble on social media (and maybe with their employers) for rocking costumes they can’t even get for themselves or their kids consider.

We say the same thing every year. And it seems to fall on deaf ears every year. There was that time when this white lady in Brazil dressed her son in a blackface slave costume with shackles, bloody bandages and whip stains.

Then there is the UPS employee who wore the “Mammy” robe. There was the salon owner who posted a video of an employee in Michael Jackson Blackface. And of course there is a list of politicians who, in their youth, were held accountable for their bad behavior, like the otherwise beloved Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who apparently didn’t know any better when they wore an “Arab Night” costume with a brown face to a party in 2001.

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I could spend the rest of this piece listing the staggering amount of blackface flaws, but we’d be here all day. I’m actually here to make an interesting discovery for Halloween in 2021: the Harriet Tubman costume – made for girls and women from California Costumes and available online through various retailers.


For those of you who missed your American History course in seventh grade, Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and became a historical figure through her role in the network for rescuing other slaves known as the Underground Railroad. It’s seen some sort of renaissance in recent years, including a compelling display of Cynthia Erivo in biopic Harriet 2019 as well as a name drop in the title of Phoebe Robinson’s Sorry Harriet Tubman, her new stand-up special on HBO Max. There’s also her place on the $ 20 bill we were promised and not yet redeemed because I can only assume that it is bureaucratic ass-tugging.

Anyway, if there is one historical figure that I find totally good with young black girls dressed up like they are for Halloween, it is Tubman. On the other hand, anyyyyyyonnnnne can buy and wear this costume, and I’m not exactly sure I want to see white people dressed up as Harriet Tubman while hopping around in search of candy.

There is definitely a way non-blacks can appropriately dress up as famous blacks (more on that in a moment). But in this case we’re talking about the potential of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl-weird rocking pre-war slave gear while holding a purpose-built lamp.

And let’s be clear – Whites from Central America hardly know who Tubman is, let alone dress up as them for Halloween. What I’m really concerned about are these “awakened” Connecticut white mothers who dress up their daughters as Tubman, if only to send them to school with the intent of “raising” their classmates.

There are many better ways to learn about Tubman than around a white kid dressed up as her. But more importantly, there are other Halloween costumes that when white people insist on dressing up as a black character – fictional or not – can come out without the pitchforks and side comments.

((Photo by Roy Rochlin / Getty Images; Photo by David Redfern / Redferns;. (Photo courtesy Bureau of Prisons / Getty Images)

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Black Panther is a great example. So many people love Marvel movies, comics, or both, and the 2018 film set a stupid number of global records, which means it wasn’t just black people in the theater. Sure, T’Challa has been an African royal family since the character was founded in 1966, but we’re talking about a skin-tight suit, full-face helmet, and some claw gloves. Easy work. When you try to go late Chadwick Boseman however, in blackface you’ve gone too far and are likely to catch a blow.

Since I was a kid I’ve seen men and women die Tina Turner Costume. All you really need is that wild, spiky blonde wig from her Private Dancer era, along with the shortest, shimmery sequin dress you can get your hands on and heels taller than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Whites can absolutely pull this off without an ounce of skin bronzer; However, it helps if you don’t skip leg day because Turner’s games were unique back then.

If you’re not black and you absolutely have to do Halloween as a revered black icon, I think civil rights legend Rosa Parks could be your safest choice. The best-known picture of Parks is sitting on a bus, wearing a hat, glasses and a generally inconspicuous coat and dress. It is cheap, easy to undress, and unlike the Tubman costume, it is not dressed in the images of slavery.

Let me make it clear that this is not a recommendation to dress up as parks for Halloween unless you are part of the black diaspora. However, it is probably the least likely to be put off by the Summer Jam screen, which is social media.

Dustin J. Seibert is a native of Detroit who lives in Chicago. He loves his own mom a little more than music and just trains every day so that his french fry intake doesn’t catch up with him. Find him at waffelcolored.com.