The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 28, 2013

Halloween costumes need not be offensive

The Mankato Free Press

---- — Halloween has become a big industry with adults celebrating Oct. 31 with as much enthusiasm as young trick-or-treaters anxious to hit the streets.

So it’s no surprise that some colleges request that their students use some restraint in choosing costumes. The University of Minnesota is among the higher-ed institutions that recently sent out a letter to students asking that students avoid dressing up in costumes that “inappropriately perpetuate racial, cultural and gender stereotypes.”

That’s a reasonable request, one that young adults should understand and not have trouble adhering to. Of course, the U is not going to be the costume police and go around citing white students who decide they want to dress up like Indians or black hip-hop artists.

Seriously, though, not only does dressing up as a racial, ethnic or cultural stereotype needlessly offend people, but it just shows a total lack of imagination.

If adults are going to go to all the bother of dressing up on Thursday, here’s a few costume ideas that others have tried that are fun but not hurtful: Put on a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants and attach a bunch of socks and underwear all over and go as dryer lint. Get a box big enough for you to fit inside it, paint red and white stripes on it, attach popcorn, wear a white droopy hat and you are now a box of popcorn. Get a battery-operated fan and a piece of plastic sheeting strategically placing air holes and containing pieces of white paper; blow it up around yourself so you are now a snow globe.

There’s no shortage of other creative ideas. But if you want the easier route, you can go with popular celebrities like so many people do. Foam fingers will no doubt be hard to find as people put together their Miley Cyrus outfits to show off their “twerking” talents. And it will probably be tough to find yellow rain gear as others put together their Walter White outifts to emulate the meth-cooking character from “Breaking Bad.” Those two costumes may be offensive in their own way but aren’t based on real people. (Please parents, don’t let your 8-year-old daughter talk you into letting her wear a sexed-up Cyrus costume. That kind of creepy doesn’t even belong in Halloween.)

Probably the most frightening thing about Halloween this year is that it falls on a Thursday night, typically one of the busiest nights of the week in Mankato as college-age people flock downtown to the bars. The mobs of people dressed up walking like zombies from bar to bar should not only use discretion in their costume choice (offensive costumes would be just one more reason to pick a fight in an already volatile atmosphere), but they need to not go overboard in celebrating what is meant to be a lighthearted night. There’s no trick to getting smashed like a pumpkin found in an alley on Nov. 1.

Adults have every right to make the most of Halloween, but dressing up creatively without causing offense and acting responsibly when out celebrating can be elements of the night that make it more fun for everyone.