Snickers, Scares and Stereotypes


Halloween costumes should be fun but are often a source of scandal. (Courtesy of Flickr).

By Faustino Galante

Halloween costumes should be fun but are often a source of scandal. (Courtesy of Flickr).

Halloween costumes are often a source of scandal [columnist not pictured here]. (Courtesy of Flickr).

I’m not a huge fan of Halloween. I hate horror, I’m not really a candy buff and in my opinion, most Halloween costumes nowadays lack originality and humor (and fear, for that matter). Despite my opinions of the festivities, I have always celebrated this senseless holiday. This past year, my friends and I decided to hit the streets of the Bronx in full mariachi gear (sombreros and Mexican capes). Our intention was simple: find a semi-comedic costume for a cheap price. Many people, though our goals were directed elsewhere. They beleives that the costumes stereotyped and mocked the average Mexican citizen. Throughout the night, we were subject to various criticisms and condemned as “racists.”

I took much offense to the ludicrous claims made by these argumentative people. Getting into political and philosophical debates was not something I was interested in doing at a Halloween party (Fordham’s “Core Curriculum” provides enough of this during the scholastic week). The various controversies our costumes evoked led me to think deeply about the racial climate present within our nation. After some careful thought, I came to two main conclusions: political polarization has spurred racial hostility, and people have forgotten the true nature of what it means to be a “melting pot,” consequently becoming too sensitive.

Political polarization refers to extreme political ideological divides within society. According to the Pew Research Center, Republicans and Democrats are more divided today than at any other point in the past two decades. This should not come as a surprise to most people. Look at this year’s election, for example: it epitomizes both the hostility and extreme ideologies derived from political polarization within our society.

Unfortunately, polarization seems to have not only affected how Washington deals with situations (with much dysfunction), but has also impacted how citizens live in accordance with one another. In regards to racial hostilities, in particular, our current two-party system has divided the public on this issue. People who lean left are often categorized as being too sensitive when it comes to racial relations. When one thinks of the word “triggered,” a liberal usually comes to mind. On the other side of the spectrum, conservatives are scorned for being rich, white racists who look to undermine social peace in America. These polarized claims are, in my opinion, one of the reasons people took offense to the mariachi Halloween costumes. People saw us, judged us as being “far right bastards,” and decided to slander us with politically charged rage. Because race has become subject to the political polarization of this country, racial relations have worsened. This year’s election has not helped direct the country towards societal peace.

In the fourth grade, one of my clearest memories of history class (other than the Erie Canal Song) was learning about the idea of America being a “melting pot.” Unfortunately, many of the aspects of the American “melting pot” are no longer present in our country. This has led to the intensification of racial hostilities. Racial strife occurred throughout the 20th century, but this period encouraged cultural assimilation. People, specifically during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, looked to discover what other cultures had to offer. Ramen noodles became popular and culturally themed parties became a frequent occurrence. People came to take pride in the fact that America was made up of various different cultures. Most cultures during this period were not angered at this “cultural appropriation,” so to speak.

Today, people are not as enthusiastic about cultural assimilation. Just yesterday, I heard about an Indian student who took offense to white Americans playing music of his culture. People in this country have become too sensitive and need to re-embrace the “melting pot” version of American society. If the “melting pot” were welcomed, I can almost guarantee that people would not have taken offense to my Halloween costume the other night.

It seems as though nothing nowadays can go on without offending some person or group. I guess I’ll just be a ghost for Halloween next year. Hopefully the spirits don’t find it discriminating.