It seems that with every new Halloween there is a new opportunity for some appalling racist act or another. Locally, we had such an event at Hamline University, and nationally, where else: The Bush Administration.
The Hamline event ... and my source here is Minnesota Public Radio, something I heard in the car ... involved a Halloween party in which several college boys dressed up in black face as primitive savages. They and the girls who helped them are in significant trouble. I heard about this while driving Julia (seventh grade) to school. She objected: She did not understand the nuanced language. She had never heard the term "black face" and the radio announcer did not use the terminology I use above. So if you did not know about Jim Crow and black face entertainment and such, and you were only twelve, you might not get it. So she objected that Halloween is a time you are supposed to wear a costume, so why would they get into trouble.
I assure you that at present Julia is up on her 19th and 20th century history of Jim Crow and black face entertainment, and she's in full agreement that something obnoxious happened at Hamline.
The white house event was similar. Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary in Homeland Security, awarded "most original costume" at an office party to a man dressed in dreadlocks, black face, and wearing a prison costume.
Of course, she released a statement saying she regretted the incident bla bla bla. Go read about it here, if you like.
Both acts are disgusting, but the latter is especially so. And that was a Homeland Security Department employee who wore the costume in the second case, and he was awarded by a three judge panel. Wow.
That's just crazy. People need to realize that some things just aren't costume appropriate. I've seen people going as offensive things like battered wives and cripples. How could it be funny to dress up and make fun of another ethnicity? Some people are just insensitive.
That being said, I think that either everything is OK to poke fun at or nothing is OK to poke fun at If people want to do this stuff... I suppose it's their right. It comes down to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Still, doesn't mean I have to like it.
It is not just idiots in the US who do this sort of thing. A couple of years the third in line to the British throne, Prince Harry, decided it was the height of cool to dress as a German officer in the Afrika Corps, complete with Nazi armband.
And what is going on at Hamline ? Until a week or so ago I had never heard of the place, now it has come up twice in blogs and both times in connection with students being less than enlightened about people who do not have white skin.