Is It Just A Costume?

October 4, 2019

Recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in the middle of a controversy that had a lot of people talking about race, stereotypes, and the word blackface. Wait … what does the word even mean? Well, the term originated in the mid-nineteenth century when white actors portrayed African Americans by painting their faces black. The idea was to entertain the audience, but since the characters were often portrayed as silly or foolish, the practice was eventually identified as racist behavior. Blackface came to embody practices that created harmful cultural stereotypes, especially of African Americans. If someone walked and dressed like you and exaggerated your behavior to entertain others, you might feel hurt as well, right?

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Many racial and cultural stereotypes still exist today around the world. Only recently have many people started to realize that what is funny to one culture or race might actually be offensive to another. In Prime Minister Trudeau’s case, photos of him wearing blackface (where he purposely painted his face black for fun at a costume party) in the early 2000s recently emerged, igniting a heated debate in Canada and beyond. While Trudeau apologized and talked about how he has learned a lot since the photos were taken, many people still consider this to be offensive behavior from someone who leads a country filled with diverse people. Other people think that since the story is from his past, it should not reflect who Trudeau is today.

As Halloween approaches, we know everyone is thinking of costumes. Can a costume go too far? Have you seen costumes that could be considered offensive? What did those costumes represent, and why do you think they were offensive?