This is how far it’s gone. As Business Insider and Campus Reform report, the Halloween Costume Police have gotten out of hand, and of course it’s at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where they simply cannot let people be adults and make their own decisions. Both articles appear to be the same, so I’ll just reproduce some of the text and the S.C.R.E.A.M. meter:
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst is posting “cultural appropriation” posters in each of the residence halls on campus featuring a detailed “racism evaluation and assessment meter.”
The initiative is being spearheaded by the Center for Women and Community, the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success, and the campus’ diversity office, the Stonewall Center.
“Don’t be an asshole,” one display urges students, providing several leaflets to help them understand the effects of cultural appropriation.
The board also includes a poster to help measure the “threat level” of a potential costume using what it calls the “Simple Costume Racism Evaluation and Assessment Meter” (S.C.R.E.A.M.) which poses several costume-related questions, the answers to which take one to various points on a “threat meter” that ranges from green (low) to red (severe).
If one intends to represent a person on Halloween, the only way to get a “green” threat rating is for the person to be of one’s own race. If one represents a person of another race, the “threat level” increases roughly in conjunction with the amount of makeup that one intends to use.
Even representing a “thing/idea” is dangerous, though, the flyer says, warning against costumes that can only be understood in the context of “controversial current events or historically accepted cliches,” particularly if “these events or cliches relate to a person or people not of your race.”
But if “race” is a social construct, what, exactly, do they mean by “people not of your race”? Are Hispanics of a different race from Native Americans, or Caucasians? If “race” means “ethnic group”, is it now not okay (as it used to be) to “punch up”, so that a black can’t dress as Batman, or an Asian as the Wizard of Oz’s Scarecrow? But the “offense meter” below indicates that you can’t wear costumes representing anyone “less powerful” or “more socially marginalized” than yourself, so one would have to have some hierarchy of oppression laid out to decide if your costume was inappropriate. As we know, the hierarchy of oppression is constantly under revision.
Here’s the S.C.R.E.A.M. meter, which you can enlarge and read for yourself.
More from Business Insider:
Another display on a different bulletin board asserts that “cultural appropriation is an act of privilege, and leads to offensive, inaccurate, and stereotypical portrayals of other people’s culture.”
It then goes on to outline steps that students can take to inform their peers if a costume may be considered inappropriate or offensive, using Native American costumes as the prime example.
“No, it’s cool, it’s not like your ancestors killed them all or anything,” reads one flyer alongside a cartoon of two white women in headdresses. “Hypersexualized racism…is still racism,” states another flyer featuring pictures of women dressed in “sexy Indian” costumes.
Here are those:
To be fair, there is one poster—just one—that says this:
“It’s not fair to ask any culture to freeze itself in time and live as though they were a museum diorama,” one poster quotes author Susan Scafidi. “Cultural appropriation can sometimes be the savior of a cultural product that has faded away.”
Indeed, and that undercuts much of the other messages, for many of the cultural products that have largely faded away, like Native American costumes or kimonos, are being admired, not mocked, by many kids who wear them. Further, cultural appropriation can not only preserve disappearing cultural elements, but can express admiration for the admirable parts of other cultures. What is good about America is how the various people who immigrated here have cross-pollinated each other’s cultures, something that is of course not unique to our country but especially noticeable here. So when someone claims “offense” if you’ve culturally appropriated something you like—perhaps because you don’t have a detailed awareness of what that culture has suffered—my response would be “go away.”
Now I’m not saying that no costumes are offensive, for some surely are. Blackface, for example, has bad historical connections with racism. What I dislike about these campus-wide efforts is the policing involved: one group takes it upon itself to arbitrate or censor the costumes of everyone else. It’s simply leisure fascism, and students, who after all are adults living in this world, can learn these lessons on their own—the process is called “growing up”—rather than being subject to arrogant and hectoring propagandizing by student Pecksniffs who flaunt their moral purity.
So although some Asians claim that they are a marginalized and oppressed group in the U.S., I’d have no patience for someone calling out a little girl, or a student, wearing a Princess Mononoke costume. We don’t have to accept (as U. Mass. apparently has) the dicta of groups like the Amherst Leisure Police, who succeed only out of liberal’s desperate fear of being called racists.
h/t: G. B. James