Ohio University Students Decry Stereotypical Halloween Costumes

Ohio University student group Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) works to raise awareness of what the group views as systemic discrimination promoted by costumes at the annual Halloween celebration on the Athens campus.

STARS, a social-justice campus organization devoted to “discussion about diversity and all isms (sexism, classism, heterosexism, ethnocentrism etc.) with an emphasis on racial issues,” began its signature “We’re a Culture Not a Costume” campaign in 2010.

The annual series of posters highlighting stereotypes in Halloween costumes has prompted applause from college administrators across the nation for students’ efforts to ignite “a national conversation on racially insensitive Halloween costumes.”

STARS has been featured on CNN, ABC News, and elsewhere for its Halloween poster campaign.

Olivia Lanier, the current events coordinator for STARS, explained to Media Trackers that the program addresses a serious cultural issue at the southeastern Ohio university.

Students’ costumes, Lanier explained, “would just be really stereotypical […] grouping one culture and marginalizing cultures with the costumes. I don’t think people were, like, realizing the effects that their costumes were having on students that were of the affected race.”

The STARS campaign against prejudicial attire is aimed at racism, as the organization’s name would suggest, but is less concerned about stereotypes of white students.

Trick-or-treating dressed as, for instance, “white trash” or “hillbillies,” is “different” and not “of the same caliber of offense,” Lanier explained.

Not everyone takes the STARS campaign as seriously as do academia and the national press. “Mock,” one-half of Indianapolis WIBC-FM 93.1 evening talk show duo “Chicks on the Right,” recently lampooned the Ohio University public-awareness program for what she described as a case of people “incapable of just laughing at themselves a little.”

“It’s just more overblown, hypersensitive, perpetually offended nonsense from progressives,” she told Media Trackers.

“Anytime the words ‘social justice’ are used, you’re about to be lectured on someone’s feelings,” Mock said in a separate interview. “We’re talking about Halloween here — a day that is all about fun and exaggeration and mischief.”

“We’re becoming an over-censored culture by our own doing.  Freedom of speech, if this trend continues, will require that everyone carry around a handbook full of phrases and words that liberal are offended by,” she said. “Liberals are entirely incapable of laughing at themselves.”

“I’m sure that some people will not think it’s a serious issue — like it’s not offensive — but to some people, it is offensive,” Lanier told Media Trackers. “I just think that, out of respect for the people that are offended by it, you just shouldn’t wear it. It’s rude.”