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"We're a culture, not a costume": student campaign against racial Halloween costumes

Photos courtesy of Students Teaching Against Racism in Society (STARS) and Ohio University

If you were planning to go to a Halloween party in a geisha costume, you might want to reconsider. An internet campaign by the Ohio-based Students Teaching Against Racism in Society (STARS) is discouraging people from dressing up as racial stereotypes, and their campaign has recently gone viral.

The campaign launched just before Halloween to get people to think before they choose their costume. The provocative posters, which were first discovered on Tumblr, took off on the social media sites around the country, grabbing the national spotlight. As of Monday evening, they had been shared more than 50,000 times online, Ohio University student Sarah Williams told Colorlines.com. Since then, the group has been all over media, including Huffington Post.

In one poster-campaign, an Asian girl is holding up a picture of a Halloween enthusiast dressed up as Geisha. In another poster, a man is showing a picture of another man dressed in an "Arab" costume (known as dishdasha), a head-dress and -- get this -- a suicide bomber's vest

The campaign's organizers have been "overwhelmed" by the response to the posters and have "had to seek out the assistance of a lawyer in protecting their work," according to Clutch Mag Online.

In an article in The Daily Wildcat, writer Kristina Bui applauded the campaign, expressing her own thoughts about racially charged Halloween costumes.

"It’s hard to explain exactly what is so wrong about being a geisha or a sheik for Halloween. It’s unsettling," she wrote.  "It’s a feeling I’ve always struggled to articulate — a discomfort that sort of just sits in the place between your heart and your stomach, quietly nagging."

Unfortunately, parodies of the campaign have been quickly appearing as well, such as this one on Know Your Meme.

Read more here and here.

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Comments

Arab costume

Hi Danielle, 

Thanks for your input. I agree that the first picture is probably a woman portraying Lil' Wayne -- a celebrity who happens to be black -- but that photo of the terrorist looks nothing like Bin Laden. It's fairly clear that it's meant to look like a generic "Arab terrorist" and would obviously make Arab people uncomfortable at the implications (the geisha costume is benign by comparison). The unfortunate thing is that many people don't know better (as demonstrated by U.S. Sikh men who were severely beaten due to a vague resemblance to Muslim terrorists), which is why the students are upset.