The Identity Politics of Halloween Costumes: A Different View

A perspective on the SSMU 4floors costume controversy you probably have not heard.

Last Thursday, October 25th, The Students Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its annual 4Floors Halloween party inside the William Shatner University building. Several days later, the Bull and Bear, the Management faculty based newspaper, posted a photo album with pictures of costumes worn at the party. Inside were pictures of several costumes—some that contained blackface (pictures), others that  referenced Mexican stereotypes—which sparked complaint. The SSMU yesterday released a “formal apology” for the costumes, and a piece on the controversy ran in today’s McGill Daily. The Daily also published an editorial expressing predictable outrage at the situation. If you haven’t already, read both pieces and the apology for context.

Because part of the controversy centered on costumes that referenced Mexican stereotypes, the Daily contacted Luis Pombo, Vice President of Communication for the Spanish and Latin American Students’ Association of  McGill University (SLASA). They submitted a response to the Daily, which is reprinted—with permission—verbatim below. For reasons unknown, this response was not included in the Daily news piece linked above.

“We at the Spanish and Latin American Students’ Association condemn all forms of discrimination against Hispanics, Latin Americans and any other culture. The portrayal of Latin American stereotypes and the misrepresentation of our values go against our belief in an equal, fair and multicultural society. Above all, we at SLASA believe in tolerance, freedom of choice and respect for differences. Nevertheless, the special and specific circumstances in which the present claim is done does not represent a direct confrontation to these beliefs. A Halloween costume, granted that mockery is not intentional, does not present a direct offence against our culture. Although we do not encourage the use of specific stereotypes of Latin American cultures, we do not feel offended by their use neither in the 4 Floors party context nor in the general celebration of Halloween.”

The response was co-authored by:

Carlos Marin Capriles (President), and Luis Pombo Reyes (VP Communications)

1 comment
  1. Eli Freedman said:

    Okay, I’m not affiliated with the McGill Daily in any way and have no clue who wrote this article– maybe they didn’t print SLASA’s letter because “Blackface and other costumes did not cause controversy” is a less interesting article. Point taken, however, SLASA’s letter is interesting to consider, and provides another side to the story.

    I am more interested, however, in the objective side to the story– of course there are ideological or personal reasons for opposing the costumes in question, but there is also research. Research that shows microagressions negatively affect students of color. I know this because my hall director where I live studies this exact topic professionally. So no matter what your, mine, or anyone else’s opinion is, there is evidence that actions such as these costumes constitutes harm on campus. Now we can get into a debate about whether or not that necessitates a ban on such costumes, but really– is losing our ability to drunkenly do whatever we please (at events like 4 floors or frosh) so sacred a right?

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