UW-Madison on 'why a costume might be seen as racist'

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, the University of Wisconsin-Madison directed students to a statement on its #YouAtUW blog positing that “cultures are not costumes” and warned students against “racist, crude costumes.” 

UW Madison’s Division of Student Life directed students to a blog post, which was authored by a representative of the Multicultural Student Center (MSC) and is titled “Does This Costume Make Me Look Racist?” 

In it, the writer says that it wasn’t until college that they “noticed the racism and ignorance” that comes with “inappropriate Halloween costumes.”

[RELATED: MSU FLOWCHART helps students decide if costumes are ‘racist’]

The writer continued by naming three categories under which these types of costumes might fall: “costumes that appropriate a culture,” “romanticiz[e] a culture,” and “stereotyp[e] a culture.” The writer cited the example of a Kung Fu master costume, arguing that it “perpetuates the idea that this is the entirety of” Chinese culture. The writer also said that costumes that “romanticize” cultures have ties to “oppression, rape, and genocide.”

A University of Wisconsin-Madison student, who requested to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, told Campus Reform that “college students shouldn’t be racist,” going on to say that “not letting kids dress up like they want just so that it’s not politically incorrect is stupid.” 

Another student, who also requested to remain anonymous for the same reason, told Campus Reform that “the university statement is too broad” and that it will be used by both sides to “justify their disdain for the university.”

[RELATED: Princeton student gov issues checklist for ‘inclusive’ Halloween]

”Students are free to wear whatever costumes they choose,” a UW-Madison spokeswoman told Campus Reform, adding that “we are encouraging them to consider how those choices reflect on themselves.” 

The article referenced in the Division of Student Life blog post is just one example of students warning against racism in Halloween costumes. 

The Badger Herald, the UW Madison student newspaper, wrote an article in 2017 saying if you’re “a white person on Halloween” you are “rather, a portrayer [sic] of cultural appropriation”. 

Campus Reform has documented multiple instances of colleges telling students not to culturally appropriate, including ones at Gonzaga University, the University of Denver, Princeton University, and Michigan State University

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @megolsonn