(The Root) — Oct. 1 marks the start of the official countdown to Halloween, and already the month is off to a frightening start, a promise of sorts of what’s all wrong about what’s to come on Oct. 31. Yesterday the ladies at popular parenting site Rookie Moms sent out an odd tweet to parents in possession of a “chubby, bald, dark-skinned baby. I have some Halloween ideas for you! DM me if I don’t sound nuts.”
Welp. The Rookie Moms, obviously also rookies at social media etiquette or political correctness, did “sound nuts” to many who caught wind of their insensitive tweet. Black Twitter roasted them — and The Root caught all the drama here. Hours later they issued an e-pology: “We are sorry for our earlier tweet and thank everyone who has taken the time to send feedback.” They added that the original offensive tweet had been removed per request and acknowledged that this was “too little too late.”
Unfortunately, Halloween faux pas are as time-honored as the anticipated holiday itself, and the Rookie Moms aren’t the first and won’t be the last to offend people with their costume ideas. However, if you would like to avoid a backlash against your outfit, here are some rules on how to keep it real but not ignorant.
Avoid stereotypes. White women, do not dress up as whatever crazy stereotype you hold of black women and call yourself “a black girl,” as if the entirety of black women are body-thrusting, boob-baring pole dancers.
Avoid blackface. There’s nothing wrong with emulating your favorite black politician, actor or rapper, but there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed in the process. You want to go out to celebrate as President Obama? Wear a popular mask or just go as the white version. Get into character with a dark suit and a red tie and mimic the unique inflections of his speech the whole night. I assure you, people will catch on.
You want to be Lil Wayne? Get a few Sharpies and get your friends to draw tattoos on you, then head to the Pacific Sunwear store for clothes to mimic his particular affection for skateboard culture. People will get it. But whatever you do, just don’t paint yourself black or brown — and you’ll probably manage to avoid touching on the long racist history of white people in blackface.
Dress your children appropriately. Halloween has been overrun by adults headed to wild costume parties, but this day is equally about kids headed out to get some treats. Please, let’s don’t dress kids up as terrorists, pimps — if his mom or sister is with him, what role are they playing in the fantasy? Exactly! — or strippers. This needs saying: Halloween is not a reasonable excuse to dress up your kids as stereotypes, misogynists or women who work a pole. Nor is it an excuse to parade them around in public scantily clad. Trust me, it’s not as cute as you might think. It’s bad parenting.
Give up on being a gang member. The obvious problem here is that there’s nothing funny about gangs. The less considered problem is that it’s a totally unoriginal idea at this point. Some frat boys at Dartmouth College already beat you to it — and, after a notable backlash, apologized for their insensitivity. If you insist on offending, at least be original.
Do not attempt anything related to slavery. Slavery was no joke, but the popularity of Django Unchained — especially Jamie Foxx in his blue suit — and the anticipation of 12 Years a Slave have generated a heightened interest in that time period. It’s as interesting as it is harrowing. If you find yourself fascinated, read a book about it or watch Roots. Halloween is not the time for you try out this particular bit of pop culture at home.