“We’re a culture, not a costume.” STARS, a student org at Ohio University

These incredible posters were created by the student organization at Ohio University called Students Teaching Against Racism (STARS).  Amazingly, these posters became popular over Tumblr on their president’s blog site (here). Their mission is “to educate and facilitate discussion about racism and to promote racial harmony and to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings.”

Here’s a statement about the posters from the organization:

Any questions about the posters can be sent to OHIOUSTARS@gmail.com. We are so proud of all the support but it’s overwhelming; we have less than 10 members in our group. We ask that you do not personally email any of the exec’s or message their personal Tumblrs. Thank you guys so much for the love! The purpose was to educate and create dialogue and it did. We have a meeting with a lawyer on Monday so we can protect our posters, and the posters will be all over Ohio University’s campus this week! Again, thanks for the support and have a happy Halloween!

— Executive Board of STARS from Ohio University

Thanks STARS for sending out this important, truthful message.

These posters act as a public service announcement for colored communities. It’s about respect, human dignity, and the acceptance of other cultures (these posters simply ask people to think before they choose their Halloween costume). Although some Halloween costumes aren’t as racist as the blackface minstrel shows back in the day, they harken to similar prejudices. What these costumes have in common is that they make caricatures out of cultures, and that is simply not okay.

Here’s a brief update:

1.) I had to disable comments for this blog post since there are some rude, racist people out there.

And 2.) Interestingly, I received over 3,000 views on this blog post alone.

I had no idea I would get this many views on my blog because I wanted to share an important message created by STARS. I’ve been thinking all night why this message was such a firecracker, and I think I may have an answer. On HIMYM, Barney jokingly said that Halloween was the day where women could bring out their inner sluts. All jokes aside, Halloween is also the day where people can bring out their inner whatever, and their inner racism is an unfortunate thing that comes out on Halloween. I’ve received a lot of racist and hateful comments on my blog post because of these important posters. Some people say the posters are trivial, petty, contrived, and stupid. Another person said, “Fuck you . . . grown up asshole.” I can only assume they meant, “grow up asshole,” but the Freudian slip is a little too funny. These messages are for grown ups who care when people cross the line between costumes that are similar to blackface minstrel shows and costumes that are just for fun. Another person brought up the scenario of a sad Caucasian person holding up a picture of a cowboy. There’s a difference between cowboy costumes and, say, slutty geisha costumes. Cowboys are viewed reverently in American society while geishas are viewed as the Japanese high-class version of prostitutes, which isn’t necessarily correct. When people let these images slide, there’s a perpetual and incorrect prejudice that becomes permeated in American society. It is simply not okay for people to compartmentalize colored communities. This is why I wanted to share these posters on my blog; they have something important to say that strikes a difficult string in people. What amazes me more about these posters is the kind of negative responses I received from people. These posters only send out a message of, “It’s not okay to compartmentalize my culture,” and people respond with hate and anger. I don’t know why so much people responded that way, but I realize now when imperative messages about human dignity and respect get out, people get angry.

Another update: 3.) This blog post has now reached +8,000 views.

Thanks to everyone who understands this important message. Again, a big thank you to STARS at Ohio University for this very important campaign. Also, read this newspaper article by Kristine Bui at Arizona University. She gives an important point on why certain Halloween costumes are so disturbing:

Finally. The “we’re not a costume” campaign may be timed for Halloween, but it’s a reaction to an attitude that’s accepted every day as normal.

It’s hard to explain exactly what is so wrong about being a geisha or a sheik for Halloween. It’s unsettling. It’s a feeling I’ve always struggled to articulate — a discomfort that sort of just sits in the place between your heart and your stomach, quietly nagging. It’s a sense of being wronged without knowing exactly what was done to you.

People who think racism is dead think so because they don’t see active discrimination. They think, “But minorities are allowed to do everything I’m allowed to do, so where’s the harm?” STARS’ poster campaign calls attention to another problem: Minorities are often made into caricatures.

And that’s why Ohio University’s Students Teaching About Racism in Society exists. STARS aims to “educate and facilitate discussion about racism and to promote racial harmony and to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings.”

STARS exists because racism is only playing dead. It manifests itself not in slurs and exclusion, but in stupid jokes and really inaccurate costumes. As a minority, you’re a character, not a person. People dress up as you on Halloween. On TV, you’re the token black guy, easily replaced by some other black guy after one season.

Racism is so much stealthier now. It doesn’t announce itself, and it’s complicated.

Read more at the Arizona Daily Wildcat Newspaper.

Last update:

4.) Thanks to many media outlets, like TimeHuffington Post, Jezebel, Clutch Magazine, and others, this blog post has reached over 150,000 views and counting (this is probably the most views this blog will ever have in its lifetime, to be honest). Thanks to those who support this poster campaign! And to those who “still don’t get it,” let me say this:

What’s wrong with the Mexican guy and his donkey? What’s wrong with the slutty geisha? What’s wrong with the idiotic Native American and terrorist, and lastly, what’s wrong with being Lil Wayne? All of these are caricatures of a culture and cross a line in their costumes. And unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who label us, minorities, colored people, black, brown peoples, by these caricatures. There was once an older guy in the South (a coworker) who kept telling me to introduce him to my “Filipino girl friends” because he liked how we were “submissive, naive, and pretty.” And yes, he really did call me those things, compared me to a geisha, and almost cornered me in our marketing booth. It was scary and it was wrong of him to label me that way, and honestly, if I didn’t get out of our marketing booth in the nick of time he might have hurt me. Right after that incident, I quit my job and found a new one. It’s hard to be a LA girl stuck in the middle of the South. People label you, and it isn’t cool.

Lastly, here’s one of the best comments I’ve seen in response to those who say, “It’s just a joke, and it’s fun.”

This group of students is working to discourage racism. Specifically they are discouraging the promotion of stereotypes of groups that are typically marginalized and oppressed. There is a link between these negative stereotypes and racism.

Also, these images are offensive to many and people hurt when they see it. So why is wearing such costumes the idea of fun to you?

This poster campaign isn’t about being overly sensitive to costume choices, it’s about perpetuati­ng prejudices and negative stereotype­s through these choices. It isn’t racist to dress up as another culture, per se. But if you do it with a mocking intent, then you’re taking it too far. All we’re asking people is to stop perpetuating those prejudices and to realize that you’re crossing a line when you strap fake bombs to your chest to portray a Middle Eastern man or if you paint your face black.

And if you still don’t get it… Then, read these more articulate articles here at Bitch Magazine and Ironing Board Collective.

Thanks to those who subscribed to my personal blog too. I find this blogging phenomenon very strange and peculiar (I really don’t get why Jezebel used my personal blog as source, but I still love that magazine to death). But, as long as this important message gets out there and changes people’s mind about things, I’m a happy camper.
Alert! Girls, are you tired of seeing nothing but “sexy” (and honestly slutty) costumes for Halloween? Check out this amazing campaign Take Back Halloween by Suzanne Scoggins. Their costumes are innovative, fun, and allude to powerful woman of our past, so try one out for this Halloween. Follow their Twitter and Facebook too!

Disclaimer: Again, I feel the need to reiterate the statement that these posters are not created by me but were designed by the student organization STARS. I am not affiliated with STARS and I did not make these posters; I only wanted to share them. The email of the organization that created these posters is found above.