Is Halloween the Most Racist Holiday?

Blackface vs. white ethnic rage.

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Complex Original

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In recent years, white people and social media have joined forcesto ruin Halloween, which is, in any case, a corny holiday. Why so many young (and grown) people would flush their disposable income into single-use costumes and then carpool to the homes of several serial killers in just one night—I don't get it. My colleagues seem to love Halloween, and so do my roommates: we're having a costume contest and house party to celebrate the most overrated holiday on the calendar. It's also the whitest holiday on the calendar, if this annual ritual of blackface spottings is any definitive indication.

When did Halloween become whiter and more violent and ridiculous than St. Patrick's Day? Is there no turning back?

This is a conversation between Justin Charity (@brothernumpsa), Frazier Tharpe (@The_SummerMan), and khal (@khal).

Charity: I hate Halloween. Like many Southern, black, Baptist families, I didn’t consistently celebrate Halloween as a kid, and so I mostly associate the holiday with scheduled hissyfits about secularism and vague social precautions about razor blades in Jolly Ranchers. That, and cheap Lil’ Batman costumes. The holiday was tacky enough before the proliferation of social media and online news underscored just how many white people—white adults—regard Halloween as an annual pass to go frolicking down Campus Avenue in blackface. They're outta control. Who can defend this holiday? Anyone?

Frazier: My dad is a deacon, and I still came correct every Halloween—until my teens, when I decided I was too cool for the effort. I loved that shit. When I lived in Fort Greene, I loved knowing which bodegas, corner stores, and brownstones gave the most fire candy; and then knowing which blocks yielded sometimes even better treats than candy when I pulled a Fresh Prince and moved to the 'burbs of Montclair, New Jersey. The back half of Montclair Ave. had the most lit assortment of chocolate and candy per house, peaking with a mansion that gave out books bundled by age group.

I still enjoyed trick or treating years after I fell back on costuming, whether gooning with friends the way Halloween so inspires adolescent males to act up or even pushing my boundaries for free candy under the auspices of taking my younger cousins out. The babyface could not be more accurate: I’m a grown-ass kid. The aura of Halloween is intoxicating, it’s rich and inviting even if you don’t actively participate. It’s the best part of fall. What’s not to like about this holiday, besides a clockwork gaggle of Caucasian buffonery in blackface and such?

Charity: Candy is cool, but I prefer salted junk food—nachos, fried chicken, etc. Miss me with the dental flashbangs known as Tootsie Rolls.

It’s not just blackface and bling-bling costumes and such. In the U.S., there are two physically dangerous holidays: Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day, when college kids get supremely drunk and talk louder and looser than they typically would and/or should. The danger of these holidays is coincidental to the fact Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day are very, very white. I attended a Jesuit university on the East Coast, and I associate both holidays with campus house parties gone inevitably wrong. I was president of a fraternity, and I never once witnessed or heard tell of any such Halloween party where half the white kids turn up in blackface. Perhaps that’s just because Georgetown kids are, typically, hyperconscious of political ramifications. Except on St. Patrick's Day, when all bets and restraints are off.

What’s not to like about Halloween? Well, when you’re small child, nothing. Once you’re 18-plus, however, Halloween becomes a messy and elaborate pretext to celebrate nothing in particular; and then you become a parent, and Halloween becomes just another expensive playdate. St. Patrick’s Day may indeed be a misguided celebration of whiteness, but Halloween is just a tribute to bad candy. It's no Dia de los Muertos, that's for sure.

At a Georgetown house party, Charity contemplates sobriety

Frazier: I grew up in New York where we have that poppin' ass parade down Sixth Ave. And if we’re talking Youth Years, Halloween set the stage for some of my most memorable college nights. Halloween seems to remove inhibitions and sets the stage for a particularly fun night...I come to Halloween now with the same expectations people have for New Year’s Eve. As long as people around me don’t look like extras from The Birth of a Nation, I’m wavy. Will I have use for Halloween 10 years from now? Maybe not, but why not let ages 2-26 flourish? As to its whiteness, you’re wild for the Mischief Night there. I know plenty of black people who shy away from the holiday for hyper-religious reasons, but I’ve never once observed it as almost exclusively white. Being for or against the holiday has rarely been a matter of color in my experience.

Charity: I just asked our social media manager, Julian, who grew up in Boston, whether Halloween is more or less racist than St. Patrick’s Day, the official holiday of New England. Julian says that St. Patrick’s Day sucks pretty hard up there. He notes that St. Patrick’s Day is the only day of the year when white people are trying, by the power of alcohol, to be whiter than normal. Since white people are pathologically violent, St. Patrick’s Day inevitably devolves into something like The Purge.

I’m throwing a Halloween party in Greenpoint this year, and you’re invited. I’m low-key fearful that a horde of white kids will swarm my block, flood my living room, and cannibalize me. Please come.

I wonder what our man khal, a certified dad, thinks about Halloween, which I'd expect is a chaperone's nightmare.

khal: Halloween is cool until you don’t feel like leaving the house anymore. My son, who turned nine back in September, is kind of over Halloween. He’s cool with dressing up like whatever nonsense he’s into right now (nine-year-olds like being superheroes and mutant turtles with ninja skills taught to them by giant-ass rats). But actually leaving the comfort of his home to walk out in the cold to get some candy? He’d rather just flex on the couch.

And I welcome it. Because no matter how lit Halloween can be for some kids, it’s still cold af and who wants to walk all over the town to get some candy we can just cop from the bodega or Walgreens or whatever? Hell, I’m born and raised in New Jersey, and have been on some three-hour Halloween expeditions. Have you ever received pennies or apples? Who wants to bother with the practical “treats?” I’m A-OK with throwing a party at the homestead for my family, letting the young cousins play games and eat all of the candy.

Your houses might be cool and your strobe lights and skeletons and whatever other horrific monstrosities you designed might be superlit, but I’m trying to light the fire pit and eat Reese’s Cups in my backyard without the fear of being hit in the head with a sock full of batteries or whatever kind of fuck shit these kids are doing to people in 2015.

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