Halloween as an opportunity to dismantle White supremacy: Three Things We Believe This Halloween
On September 5th, 2017, Raising Race Conscious Children’s Sachi Feris published a post entitled “Moana, Elsa, and Halloween” that generated various questions and comments. Sachi clarified, on the blog’s Facebook feed, that her discussion was specific to her identity as a White parent talking to her White child and the power/privilege that Whiteness carries—which made dressing up as Moana problematic.
Every Halloween, there are articles about White people who apply Black face or who engage in explicitly racist acts—these costumes are easy to spot and condemn. Sachi’s original post addressed the subtle ways in which White people use the cultures of others as costumes. Our goal at Raising Race Conscious Children, as parents and educators, is to share our parenting conversations to support others (who share our goals) in having explicit conversations about race in their homes. To dismantle White supremacy, we have to examine our most familiar practices, including traditions like dressing up for Halloween.
In an effort to answer various questions and concerns posed in reaction to this post, here are Three Things We Believe This Halloween:
Three Things We Believe This Halloween
- White parents who want to dismantle White supremacy have a special burden to check their entitlement on Halloween—and make sure that their children’s costume choices are not reinforcing a culture of racism. Since Halloween became popularized in the United States, White people have been dressing up in costumes “in good fun” with little regard to whom they might be offending. Sachi’s post was meant to push White families in particular to have conversations that question their choices, and consider the impact, rather than the intent of a costume.
- Dressing up as a White person (from the dominant culture of power and privilege) is not cultural appropriation—but consider the development of children’s healthy racial identities on Halloween. Sachi’s conversation with her daughter also aimed to push back against an image of beauty that values Whiteness in addition to a specific body type and hair color/style. Many children, both White children and people of color, do not fit into this image of beauty.
- Halloween is an opportunity to have a conversation with your child about race, power, and privilege. Most important, we hope that you will use Halloween as an opportunity to engage your child in an ongoing conversation about how they can use their voices as change-makers. Silence sends a powerful message about various forms of inequity and racism that remain ongoing and unchallenged. No matter what you decide for your family, our hope is that you engage in reflections about how you may or may not be perpetuating stereotypes/racism, At Raising Race Conscious Children, we believe that naming race and moving young people towards action, will empower them to be more equipped and confident in these conversations as they grow into their adult lives.
Note: The original post, “Moana, Elsa, and Halloween,” generated many comments, questions, re-posts, and debate. Some of the re-posts have changed the meaning, and even facts, of the original post. Some of the comments on our site were not approved as they did not meet our guidelines for comments.
Lori Taliaferro Riddick facilitates interactive workshops/webinars at Raising Race Conscious Children. Lori also consults with public school districts to develop effective leaders. She formerly served as the Executive Director of Policy and Practice Services at New Leaders. Lori identifies as Black/Bi-racial/Multi-racial and is a mother to her eight-year-old and one-year-old sons.
Sachi Feris is a blogger at Raising Race Conscious Children, an online a resource to support adults who are trying to talk about race with young children. Sachi also co-facilitates interactive workshops/webinars on how to talk about race with young children. Sachi teaches Spanish to Kindergarten and 1st grade at an independent school in Brooklyn. Sachi identifies as White and is a mother to her five-year-old daughter and to her two-year-old and five-month-old sons.