The weak fluorescent lighting flickers ominously, deciding to illuminate the desolate hallway only every other second. Footsteps are heard, softly at first, but they soon intensify. A figure appears on the other end of the expanse, shrouded in a long, dark cloak. As they come closer, the face of a demon registers and when they are within touching distance, a hand slips from between the fabric.
The creature pulls off its mask to reveal a normal girl, who calmly asks about the next chemistry assignment.
Halloween is a holiday distinguished from others by its devotion to entertainment. Aside from Easter and possibly Christmas, no other celebratory day calls for the normalization of costume wear. It is something almost entirely unique to Halloween and allows for participants to push their creativity to its limit in curating that perfect costume.
However, just like with any great entity, there are certain implications. With the addition of more and more “insensitive” costumes, the line between holiday spirit and inappropriate becomes increasingly blurred. From black-faced imitators to faux indian chiefs, the answer to the question of whether this behavior is immoral may be a resounding “yes,” yet ideals of freedom, another righteous institution, beg to differ.
In modern American society, the freedom of expression has been in a constant war with morality. Should one be allowed to express themselves at the cost of another’s discomfort? How is discomfort measured? By the decree of the United Nations, it seems as if the freedom of expression would pull slightly ahead in a race of logic.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” As a document that most countries within the United Nations has agreed upon and with the United States being a major proponent of this notion, the medium of a halloween costume seems to fit the aforementioned definition of freedom of expression and should not be chastised.
Thus, while racist, homophobic, classist or any other awful denomination of hate-filled costume may be inherently disgusting, preventing the wear of them simultaneously inhibits the freedom this country endeavors to perpetuate.
Overall, Halloween costumes will always be a part of American culture and will bring endless delight to millions of children and adults alike for many more years to come. It is a distinct minority who use this holiday to express their hateful beliefs, rising to the occasion in being truly horrific. However, they are doing this in the same way that others use it as an outlet for fun and lighthearted horror. In the free world, it seems that to be honestly free, sacrifices will have to be made.
Photo courtesy of Stacie Joy. CC License 2014.