News and Commentary

‘Costumes Can Elicit Trauma’: Michigan State University Warns Students About Halloween

   DailyWire.com
A customer is seen browsing for Halloween theme costumes at a stall days before Halloween in Hong Kong on October 25, 2021.
Miguel Candela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Michigan State University (MSU) officials on Wednesday sent students an email about the upcoming Halloween weekend and the school’s football game against the University of Michigan.

Included at the bottom of the email, which was shared with The Daily Wire, was a reminder for students to be mindful of what Halloween costumes they choose to wear.

“I’m asking you to think about this now, before heading into the excitement of the weekend. Make a plan, be respectful (including being mindful of Halloween costumes that perpetuate stereotypes and cultural appropriation) and do what is best for you, your fellow Spartans and the East Lansing community. Read this article for more information about appropriate costumes,” wrote Vennie Gore, senior vice president for residential and hospitality services and auxiliary enterprises.

The included article mentions “visible and invisible identities” having concerns about Halloween costumes.

“While most think of Halloween as a time to dress in costume and celebrate all things spooky, it also can become a breeding ground for racist, sexist, culturally insensitive and biased behaviors,” the article says. “Halloween can be an opportunity to creatively dress and decorate, but experts say it’s important to consider how costumes that portray specific groups of people in demeaning ways — as criminals, hyper-sexualized and or grotesque caricatures — can perpetuate harmful stereotypes.”

The article then quotes Dennis Martell, MSU’s director of health promotion, who claimed, “Misrepresentation and acts to dehumanize others have long been a way for certain groups to exercise racial superiority.”

The article also claims that “costumes can elicit trauma if they poke fun at the experiences of historical harm, bigotry or displacement.”

Dr. Genyne L. Royal, MSU’s assistant dean for Student Success Initiatives and director of the Neighborhood Student Success Collaborative, said in the article that it “is crucial to avoid costumes that mock or show insensitivities around traumatic experiences.” MSU provided a list of some “experiences” that shouldn’t be the basis for costumes:

  • Pandemic victim
  • Black face
  • Holocaust victim
  • Cultural stereotypes
  • Body-shaming and objectifying
  • Islamophobia
  • Transphobia
  • Mental illness
  • Sexual harassment
  • Homelessness
  • National tragedies

“Cultures are not costumes; marginalized people carry the hardships coming with their identities every day of the calendar, and cannot simply shed our identities after Halloween night. My peers should reflect on what a costume signifies and consists of to make wise decisions about dressing up,” one senior is quoted as saying in the article.

MSU then provides a four-question process to determining whether a costume is okay to wear:

  1. What does my wearing of the costume convey?
  2. Does the costume challenge or misrepresent my value system?
  3. Might this costume perpetuate harm or violence that a group has experienced?
  4. Does this costume reference a certain culture or identity and, if so, is it mine to claim? 

MSU is the latest school to take action regarding Halloween. East Lansing Public Schools announced earlier this month that it was canceling Halloween to be more “inclusive” and “equitable” to those who don’t celebrate. A school in Seattle also canceled its “Pumpkin Parade” for supposedly marginalizing people of color.

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