For many students, Halloween is a very popular celebration. Many of our students go trick-or-treating, collect candy and prizes, and show pride in their costumes with contests and parades. Let's use this celebration as a teachable moment to talk with our students both about history and about planning for a fun celebration that is respectful to all cultures.
Every year, we see and hear stories in the media about students, educators, and others whose Halloween costumes are insensitive or reinforce stereotypes. While we may think that talking with students about their costume choices are not necessarily part of our regular teaching duties, it presents an opportunity to talk about larger issues in our society. Engaging in conversations with students about the appropriateness of Halloween costumes can help all have an even better time while celebrating the holiday.
In 2011, Students Teaching About Racism in Society, a student group at Ohio University, created a poster campaign titled "We're a Culture, Not a Costume" to raise awareness about how Halloween costumes that portray stereotypes are insensitive and can be harmful. Consider using this poster campaign and some of the resources below with your students to talk about Halloween this year.
Resources to use in class:
- What Do Halloween Costumes Say? (K-2, 3-5)
- When Does a Halloween Costume Cross the Line? (Intermediate, Middle, High School)
- Teach About Blackface and Other Racist Halloween Choices
Resources to learn more:
- Origins of Halloween and the Day of the Dead
- On Halloween, Insensitivity Goes Beyond Kimonos and Black Face
- In Classrooms, Halloween Costumes Can Raise Sensitive Issues
- Halloween Costume Correctness on Campus: Feel Free to Be You, but Not Me (2015)
- "I Am Not A Costume" Reminds People to Choose Halloween Outfits Respectfully (2016)
- Disney Pulls Offensive 'Moana' Costume (2016)