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STARS Student Group Fight Against Racist Halloween Costumes

Submitted by on October 30, 2011 – 5:21 pm10 Comments

When I was a little girl, my Halloween costumes were very simple. I was either a wicked witch with a green face and crooked nose, a fairy princess with wings and a crown or Catwoman with a tail, whiskers and pointy ears. Thankfully our society isn’t filled with witches, catwomen or fairy princesses, otherwise I might have offended a few people.

As long as I can remember, controversy and Halloween costumes have always collided. In elementary school, one of my Irish classmates was sent home for his “insensitive” homemade Hasidic Jew costume complete with a beard, payot and a yamacha. During my sophomore year at college, riots nearly errupted when a member of a white fraternity was accused of wearing a “blackface.” Black students demanded an apology and called him racist. He called it his “Tiger Woods” costume.

It’s clear that Halloween costumes can easily cross the thin line between being festive and being offensive but one college student organization is hoping to help educate the masses and prevent any insensitive costumes from hitting the streets this Hallows Eve.

At Ohio University, a group of concerned students joined together to create  “Students Teaching Against Racism (STARS).” Their mission is “to educate and facilitate discussion about racism and to promote racial harmony and to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings.”

To get their point across, STARS created a five-poster campaign depicting costumes that may be offensive to Asians, Native Americans, Africa-Americans, Mexicans and Arabs with the words,“We’re a culture, not a costume” and “This is not who I am, and this is not okay.” For example, an Asian student holds up a picture of a Geisha costume while a Native-American student takes offense to students portraying Indians with feather headdresses.

“Racially offensive costumes happen every Halloween,” said Taylor See, the 20-year-old student who designed the posters. “I think people don’t realize they’re offending others.”

Since the campaign was created and posted on STARS’ Tumblr page, they have gone viral garnering attention from hundreds of blogs and mainstream press outlets. “We are so proud of all the support but it’s overwhelming,” wrote STARS’ President Sarah Williams, 24. “We have less than 10 members in our group. Thank you guys so much for the love! The purpose was to educate and create dialogue and it did :) We have a meeting with a lawyer on Monday so we can protect our posters and the posters will be all over Ohio University’s campus this week! Again, thanks for the support and have a happy Halloween!”

Check out STARS’ “We’re A Culture, Not A Costume” campaign below. Do you consider these costumes racist? What will you be this Halloween?

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