Why Are People Surprised by Racist Halloween Costumes?
Welcome to a special Halloween edition of This Week in Racism. I’ll be ranking Halloween costumes on a scale of 1 to RACIST, with “1” being the least racist and “RACIST” being the most racist.
-This might come as a major shock to you, but wearing racially insensitive Halloween costumes is pretty popular. Blogs got their digital panties in a twist in 2012, 2011, 2010,2009, and pretty much every year that the internet has existed as a perpetual outrage machine. Halloween is like Christmas for racists, because it’s an easy way to cloak bigotry in the guise of fun.
It should be no surprise, then that Julianne Hough’s foray into the darker side of the holiday (pun very much intended) generated a ton of attention this week for her choice of costume. Bloggers slammed her for insensitivity, and friends came out in support of her choice to dress up like an African-American character from Orange is the New Black. I don’t imagine she’s a hateful person, nor do I think she was out to offend. That said, as a celebrity (even a reality star) who happens to be white, it’s definitely not wise to step out in public with a bunch of brown paint on your face… unless you’re going as a delicious piece of semi-sweet baking chocolate, which is such a great idea. Seriously, you can have that for free. 5
Two protesters outside last weekend’s white nationalist summit in Washington DC’s Ronald Reagan building, being ironic.
Some Well-Dressed White Nationalists Got Together in DC Last Weekend
The worst part about going to a white nationalist conference is when everyone thinks you’re a white nationalist.
As I approached the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington, DC, on Saturday morning, a group of protesters started jeering at me, and one hoisted a cardboard sign in my direction that read: “Fuck off, Nazis!” Then I had to pass through a metal detector and security checkpoint manned by several black policemen.
Hey guys, boy am I excited to cover this event, I wanted to say. Because I am covering this event, as a journalist, certainly not because I’m a crypto-fascist.
The event in question was the National Policy Institute’s “leadership conference,” titled “After the Fall: The Future of Identity.” It’s a boring name that, like a lot of vague monikers used by political entities, conceals an alarming agenda.
The National Policy Institute is a white nationalist think tank. These aren’t Breaking Bad Nazis or yokels in KKK robes. These are suit-and-tie white separatists—academic-sounding fellows who speak grimly about “preserving European culture” from the swarthy tide of egalitarianism and immigration. Their leader, Richard Spencer, is as clean-cut as they come, which, as he told Salon, is essentially a recruitment tactic:
“’[White separatists] have to look good,’ Spencer said, adding that if his movement means ‘being part of something that is crazed or ugly or vicious or just stupid, no one is going to want to be a part of it.’”
The assumption is that if they dress nice, people will follow Spencer and his fellow travelers on their road to a white ethno-state where pasty people can listen to Jack Johnson records and play Frisbee in glorious racial homogeneity.
Gypsy Child Snatchers! Don’t Exist
Hysterical and unfounded fears of Gypsies stealing babies spread through Ireland this week, which led to the police taking children away from two separate Roma families. The police turned out to be the only child snatchers in these cases, which were the culmination of years of growing anti-Roma sentiment that at every point politicians—and sometimes the press—have perpetuated rather than prevented.
The Roma community has long been Europe’s whipping boys and girls. They are the last minority group that it is safe for ostensibly respectable politicians to openly attack. Despitethe dark legacy of the Porajmos, the Nazi’s extermination of as many as 1.5 million Romani during World War II, in Europe it has never become taboo to repeat centuries-old slurs about their culture.
This particular round of Gypsy hate started last week in Greece, where a child named Maria with blonde hair and blue eyes was found living with Gypsies who were not her real parents. Immediately, the centuries-old myth of Gypsy kidnappings was reborn. The parents of missing blonde children lined up to say they had found new hope from the case because Gypsies could have taken their child. The idea is as discredited as the blood libel against Jews—that they used Christian children in rituals—but people still like to trot the lie out every so often.
Don’t Have People in Blackface at Your Birthday Party
Welcome to another edition of This Week in Racism. I’ll be ranking news stories on a scale of 1 to RACIST, with “1” being the least racist and “RACIST” being the most racist.
I Started a Punk Zine in Racist Rural South Africa
Growing up in the shadow of apartheid in rural South Africa was complicated. Even by the time I turned 18, in 2006, an ignorant concept of the “other” was still deeply rooted in the psyches of a lot of people, which made life pretty difficult. As an English speaker in a predominantly Afrikaans agricultural region, I was often made to feel like a foreigner in my hometown, despite being born on the same soil as everybody else.
The African National Congress, the country’s ruling political party, had—and still has—failed to create an equal-opportunity society nearly 20 years after apartheid ended.Corruption plagues the ruling system and poverty is widespread, while crime andunemployment levels are high, and social mobility is near to impossible for most people. As a teenager, I felt that I—a poor, English-speaking white South African—had absolutely no voice in my province, which was paradoxically named the Free State.
While trying to figure out my place in the society I’d been born into, I realized that I lacked a cultural identity and any tangible economic prospects. Which is probably why I soon became fascinated with the British and American punks from a generation before me who were writing and singing about racism, unemployment, poverty, and other social issues.
What Not to Wear This Halloween
Oh, Halloween. The worst night to get a cab and the best night to take home a slutty Disney princess. Is it really a holiday, since we don’t get the day off from work? Of course it is, because when else could you get nudity in massive quantities, enough facepaint to excuse you for bringin home a five, and cauldrons full of shame the next day.
Before you skank-it-out at a house party, leave your credit card at the bar, or turn into a weirdo roaming graveyards, you’ll have to pick out a Halloween costume interesting enough to spark a conversation with that five. You’ll have to navigate the thin line between offensive enough to be clever and overcompensating with complete stupidity. For those not smart enough to use all three digits of their IQs, we’ve brought you a guide on what not to wear on Halloween, so when you only pick up your sexy pizza-slice costume off the floor the next morning and not also your dignity.
Who sells that? Amazon.
What’s it supposed to be? A “realistic black Kenyan man”—perfect for doing the Harlem Shake (um, what?).
Why shouldn’t I wear it? It’s racist.
What kind of person wears that? A bigot.
Who makes that? aleXsandro Palombo, for his website humorchic.com; a “daily society portrait blog, the best illustrated fashion chronicle, a point of view about costume, politics, culture, society, and celebrity. aleXsandro Palombo is the father of fashion satire, visionary artist, author, and critic.”
What’s it supposed to be? It’s a T-shirt of Amanda Knox holding a bloodstained knife.
Wasn’t she acquitted of murder? Yes.
What kind of person wears that? The kind of person who believes they are the “father of fashion satire.”
Black, White & Greek
In 1963, in the midst of the heated debate over the desegregation of American schools, the University of Alabama announced that it would for the first time allow African Americans to enroll. Fifty years later, in September 2013, two University of Alabama sororities rejected an African American student because of her race. As a result, an anti-racist student group called the Mallet Assembly and other members of the community took action to prevent segregation within the university’s Greek system.
Watch the documentary
Remnants of the British Black Panther Party’s Lost Legacy
After the Black Panther Party filled the vacuum left by the death of prominent human rights activists like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, the movement’s successes inspired others to create their own chapter. In the UK, The British Black Panthers, rather than being politically driven like its US counterpart, aimed for social change within its communities. But due to its brief four-year tenure as London’s resident countercultural grassroots movement, the movement was largely undocumented.
Luckily, Neil Kenlock, one of the group’s core members, took it upon himself to become their photographer, capturing images of their meetings, campaigns, marches, and presence in local communities.
I had a chat with Neil about the British Black Panther movement, and the importance of documenting its legacy.
VICE: How did you become involved with the British Black Panther movement?
Neil Kenlock: Well, I encountered racism when I was quite young—maybe 16 or 17. I went to a club in Streatham, and when I arrived I was told it was full and that I should come back next week. When I returned I was denied again because they didn’t want “my type” in there. I protested that I didn’t see why I shouldn’t be let in. There were, of course, no discrimination laws in those days, so there was no one to tell about this.
And you were never let in?
My friend and I pointed out that we were well dressed, weren’t there to make trouble, and just wanted to enjoy ourselves like other people, so what was the problem? We were told to leave or the police would be called. We wouldn’t go, so they called the police, who then told us that we weren’t wanted in the club and that we should go home. I pointed out we weren’t breaking any laws and the police told us they would arrest us if we didn’t leave. I really didn’t want my parents to have to come to Streatham police station and bail me out, so I left. But, on my way home, I decided that I was going to fight against unfairness and discrimination in this country.
How did you come across the Panthers, then?
Well, some weeks later, I saw a Panther in Brixton giving out leaflets about police brutality and discrimination. I joined them then.
Neo-Nazis Are Attacking Anti-Racist Activists in Calgary
We’re being attacked, Bonnie Devine thought as a brick shattered her living room window, only inches above the couch where she slept.
It was just past 5 AM on September 29, and luckily the brick-throwing vandals didn’t break through the second of two window panes, which would have sent deadly glass shards cascading upon her.
The mother of four calmly checked on her four boys before inspecting the damage. A brick lay broken in half on the lawn outside. Three of her car tires were slashed. The next day, the fourth tire blew out while she was driving with her boys.
The attack follows six years of white supremacist violence against her family, which they link to 26-year old ringleader Kyle McKee.
“This time it’s a brick,” she pondered. “But who knows what it’ll be next time.”
Amidst a rising tide of hate activity in Canada, the couple have been targeted again and again for their activism with Anti-Racist Action Calgary.
Over six years, they’ve faced death threats, fire-bombing, home invasions, and horrendous beatings—the worst of which saw a group of thugs break into their home in 2010, jumping on Bonnie’s husband Jason—along with a friend of his—and battering them so severely with hammers and bats there was blood smeared on the walls.
“They tried to kill me by beating my head in and beating my body,” he recalled.