“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandi
When Gandhi arrived in South Africa, his views were firmly grounded in non-violence, and with that as his guide he developed all the strategies used today in efforts geared towards social change through non-violence. Marches, occupying public places, burning registration cards, filling the jails and even starting his own newspaper (‘Indian Opinion’) — all these were initiated, developed and applied until new agreements were made with the South African government before his return to India in 1914. His successes in India were a long struggle that finally led to Indian Independence in 1947.
To put it simply, he changed the world of his time and ours as well.
In America we know this as a fact. Our own civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., brought us to the beginnings of a new view of society, the one demanded by our own constitution — liberty and justice for all regardless of race, religion or gender.
And it didn’t stop there. The anti-war movements were empowered by Gandhi’s history and our own.
Disclaimer, this blog is pretty sporadic, so I apologize. But the above quotation does relate to my thoughts, somehow. Read on, and thanks for reading.
Finally, after five days, the views on this blog post have dwindled down to around 2,000 (which, when compared to my average view count prior to the “We’re a culture, not a costume” campaign, is still an 100 percent increase). I told myself that as soon as the weekend came, people would stop visiting my blog, get back to their normal lives, and celebrate Halloween. I only wish that of the 160,000 people who visited my blog, more than half of them were affected by what I said and thought about the poster campaign in a critical light. Although I received many rude, racist comments from people who were angered by my opinion, I still received an immense amount of support from many others and that uplifted my spirit more than I can say.
I want to say a little thing about the social media and blogging phenomenon that happened here. I don’t know if it’s a normal thing for personal blogs (that belonged to nobody, i.e., me) to get 160,000 views in a span of five days (the highest count was Tuesday with 67,195 views), but it was a phenomenon to me and I was utterly shocked to find different media outlets quoting my blog and linking it as a source (how can a personal blog ever be a legitimate source?). But when I researched it further, I found that this is a consequence of online journalism, which is journalism that doesn’t necessarily pay their “journalists” to write their pieces. What I can interpret from the slew of media outlets climbing on the bandwagon of this poster campaign is this: there are some, like CNN and Huffington Post, that legitimately wanted to cover this important campaign and its effects on people (for one thing, CNN interviewed STARS’ president Sarah Williams and Huffington Post linked my blog to explain how it further became popular on the blogsphere). There are others, like Daily Mail in the UK, who only wrote about it to get more views on their website and basically regurgitated what other online newspapers said (e.g., Daily Mail only quoted my personal blog since Huffington Post linked it). All in all, this has made me highly dissatisfied with how some media outlets handle their “news.” As a journalism major in community college (I switched to English at USC), I understand that “news” is created by what the masses want, and, for some reason, this Halloween poster campaign sparked an immense fire in people, so much that one commenter had to say to me, “your a chink will always be a chink. . . GO HOME!” (Not only did he call me a pejorative term, he called me something I’m not—I’m Filipino American—and, sorry to break this to you, guy from Cincinnati, America is my home.) But, what bothered me most about this social media frenzy, which can be likened to a ridiculous circus parade, is that most media outlets only covered the poster campaign to ask, “So what are your thoughts about it?” and then have people fight about it. That’s it. There was no mediator in the discussion on their comment portions. Again, it seems to me that most media only wanted to jump on the bandwagon to get more views, more hit points, more traffic. And though, yes, this did bring awareness to the cause, and sometimes proliferated press and coverage, even if it’s unmoderated, is a good thing, I’m still shocked and feel uneasy about the whole thing. I’m surprised at how many people who hid behind their computer screens and defended white privilege as if it were a fanatical religion. I’m surprised that some media outlets encouraged people to defend their white privilege. All in all, I’m shocked and surprised by how people could be offended by political correctedness (as some people said, “this is political correctedness that’s gone too far!”). How can a message of human respect and dignity go “too far?” It didn’t offend anyone, and the poster campaign only asked people to think more.
I apologize, dear readers, as this blog is ending up like a tangent. I simply wanted to free write and tell how I felt about this whole social media and Halloween craze. I want to, again, applaud STARS for their work and for bringing awareness to an important cause. But more than that, I want to mention why I included Gandhi’s quote above. Subtle racism exists and it is prevalent today. We need to change that. To the people who said, “There are more important matters at hand [than this poster campaign],” the reason why this poster campaign struck such a difficult string with people is because it attacks racism at its source—at a very private and expressionistic source. Halloween has become a corporate holiday where people are free to do as they please, and Halloween costumes have become the vessels for the subtle racism that some people harbor. Unfortunately, there are people out there, more people than you think, who harbor racist attitudes and prejudices. The campaign brought awareness to those attitudes and prejudices, and people got angry because “nobody likes being told what to do.” The poster campaign’s response is almost akin to the white response in the Little Rock Nine (and here). In Little Rock, Arkansas, nine black students enrolled in a public school during a time when segregation was prevalent in society. I remember watching this video in college, with a white woman yelling in the face of one of the students, telling her to go home. The documentary shows the same white woman, more than ten years later, apologizing for yelling in the face of that student, saying she “didn’t know what overcame her.” The response to this poster campaign is almost the same, though it is not on the same level. Many people hold onto their prejudices tightly, and whenever the world wants to change, become better, and take this racism out, people get angry. They get really angry.
More than that, since the world has gotten a little better and people, like me, have their rights situated by the government and other social outlets, people think that racism is dead. As Kristine Bui from Wildcat Arizona newspaper said: racism is only playing dead. There is more work we have to do to change the world, and we must start with ourselves. Changing how people view Halloween costumes, which is a personal and expressionistic practice, is a good place to start. As Gandhi said, we must be the change we want to see in the world. We must be nonviolent, we must be gracious, we must stand up for what is right, and we must continue the fight. This is why I shared the poster campaign, check myself consistently for any racist thoughts or prejudices, and live my life with grace. And though I fail a lot at being gracious or checking myself, I keep picking myself up and keep chanting for change, whether it be inside or outside myself.
Lastly, let’s have fun this Halloween. I’m planning to be a cat (I fucking love cats). Yesterday, I bought these tiger-cat ears, fake eyelashes, and leopard gloves. I plan to wear a gray suit, black tights, and boots. I’m really small too (probably the smallest 23 year old you’ll ever meet), so I think this cat costume fits me perfectly. I kinda look like a cat too, and it is probably every girl’s go-to-costume when they’re lazy.
Thanks for reading. Have a safe, fun Halloween, everyone!