Opinion

Another year, another offensive Halloween costume for kids

"Halloween is not a free pass to dress however you'd like and ignore social conventions. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as crossing the line."

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Walmart, that bastion of last-minute Halloween costumes, recently pulled a controversial kids’ costume from shelves after public outrage. The costume in question? An Israeli soldier.

The costume resembles the uniform worn by the Israel Defense Forces and comes equipped with an Uzi machine gun, a red beret and Hebrew lettering on the front pocket. Walmart also sells an Israeli police officer costume for kids. Both costumes were recently discontinued after parents and other shoppers took to social media to voice their disgust. Also pulled from store shelves was an “Arab Sheik” (sic) costume for adults that included a large hooked nose and was referred to as “Fagin,” named after the Jewish character in Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist.

This isn’t the first time Walmart has crossed the line when it comes to Halloween attire: Last year, it removed a “Pashtun Papa” costume after there were complaints, and in 2013 it pulled an Osama bin Laden costume from store shelves. These getups would be offensive if worn any day of the year, and Walmart’s decision to carry these costumes is especially ignorant during a time of heightened racial tensions.

This leads me to ask: Who gave those costumes the go-ahead? Did they not consider, as they were uploading the photos onto their website, that the gleeful descriptions might be offensive? Or did they just dismiss political correctness entirely?

Well, I care! Call me a wet blanket or a party-pooper or whatever you want because I think it matters. Halloween isn’t a free pass to dress however you like and ignore social conventions. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as crossing the line. No, I don’t like when people dress their toddler as drug lord Pablo Escobar—yes, that actually happened! It’s not funny to dress your kid as a murderous drug dealer. I’m not a huge fan of the Breaking Bad babies either. Also, don’t even think about coming to my Halloween party dressed as Caitlyn Jenner, which is reportedly a bestseller for adults this year.

Sure, it’s fun to dress up and be someone else for a night. But ask yourself, when you look back at that costume years down the road, is it something you’ll regret? Will you still find it hilarious when your 12-year-old asks why, as a toddler, you dressed him up and accessorized him with a moustache and a Baggie of baking powder?

I like to stay on the side of political correctness when it comes to Halloween costumes, and I’ve had thoughtful discussions with my kids about why a ninja costume is OK but a geisha is not. We’ve also discussed why sexy french fries is just plain weird—“sexy” anything is unnecessary.

Costume manufacturers obviously don’t consider what’s appropriate for Halloween. They seem to take an “anything goes” approach. But there’s definitely a line, as people’s outraged reactions to these Walmart costumes have demonstrated. Sadly, though, I’m not always sure where exactly the line is. But at least I’m thinking about it and talking about it with my family, which is more than I can say about Walmart and other costume outlets that choose to carry offensive Halloween costumes for kids and adults alike.

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

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