As a biracial/multiracial person of color (PoC), I’m used to dressing up as characters that aren’t my specific race. Doing so as a part of a couple’s costume with my husband, who is white, is a little more difficult. For some reason, people can understand (most of the time) that my costume is not race related if I am on my own, but once I dress up as part of a couple’s theme, our races and the surrounding implications that race apparently has on our costumes becomes the focal point.
My husband and I dressed up as Night and Day for Halloween this year. I did recognize that if I dressed up as night, I would probably play into the the provincial preconceived notions that others may have about my rightful costume in this duo. I thought about it for a while, talked it out with a few people, and–against the advice of others–finally decided that I didn’t really care because I wanted to be night and had a cute idea for the costume.
I just want to say that the fact that I had to consider my race and whether or not I’m reinforcing prejudices when being completely respectful and not encroaching on another group’s culture is ridiculous. We are talking about night and day! The stars and the moon, the sun and the clouds! No skin whatsoever. Simply, the personification of these concepts. If anything, these concepts have more associations and stereotypes surrounding gender than anything. But people see color before gender when you are walking around as a PoC.
Some may think that I was overreacting by worrying about the perceptions and assumptions of others. Perhaps, you might think, I was being hypersensitive. Nope. If anything, this worry and concern was developed over years of interactions and experiences that taught me that when I am in the minority, my race speaks louder than anything else. I represent more than my thoughts and actions and who I am. I embody the stereotypes, fears, and judgements of those around me. As such, by simply being in their space, I open myself to others as a receptacle for their prejudices.
There were several well-intentioned people who commented on my playing into stereotypes by dressing as night. I was told had I been the sun, I would have combated racial stereotypes.
I’m sure there were many others who never questioned my choice as night because, in their minds, night was the obvious choice based on my race. I also understand that, as night, I did nothing to give them any reason to question those assumptions.
Once again, here we have the constant politicalization of brown and black bodies. There is a perception of how one should act and not act even on Halloween and what specific statements one should or should not make with those actions. Of course, I want to fight stereotypes, but I want to do so on my own terms and not at the cost of my own authenticity. If I had dressed as day, it would have been a reaction to the constrained racialized paradigm that fuels so much of American culture. I don’t want to just react, or, as I have written before, I don’t want a seat at the table. I want to smash the table and shift the paradigm.
Would it have been more noble, as some suggested, for me to be day? Would I have broken racial barriers and prejudices by doing so? Absolutely not. The racial barrier is in the very thought that either day or night has a race at all. So, let’s start by shifting that paradigm and letting a Halloween Costume just be a costume, especially when seen on a brown or black body.