Cultural mockery: an open letter to that kid

What follows here is a true account of how a happy Halloween turned into a crappy one. So let’s start from the beginning, the day before. So…it’s Hallows Eve and, like every other day before a festive holiday at college that requires some kind of dressing up, I have nothing. I scavenged through my “costume chest” with no luck. No matter how many times I looked at that Cookie Monster onesie that my mom had given me for Christmas, and at that brown furry vest, which by my last year at Colby I’ve already used to mimic every woodland creature possible, I knew I needed something new. I needed something original, something funny, quirky or creative; I craved a kick-butt Halloween costume. Since my trunk yielded nothing, I proceeded to search my mind for ideas, only to find, once again, nothing.

Luckily for me inspiration, came in the form of, a childhood classic movie, “The Emperor’s New Groove.” By the end of the night I had assembled a team. I was to play the role of Kronk, Yzma’s trusted advisor, and I was to be joined by a squirrel to engage me in “Squeek sqeek squikum” conversations. But before we could do any of that, a dear friend questioned the ethics of the whole thing, and claimed we could potentially be offending people. So instead, we settled on Justin Bieber and the girls from his SORRY music video. And it was great:  I borrowed someone’s tattoo arm sleeve, threw on my Tims, a pair of black skinny jeans and the baggiest white tee I could find. I channeled the kind of personality that gets 200,000 plus signatures on a White House petition demanding my deportation, and had a hell of a Halloween.

I tell you this story not to simply boast about what a good time I had this past Halloween, but instead to depict how finding a costume should work. Step 1: You should see what’s available. I’m busy, you’re busy, I get it, not everyone has time for a Wal-Mart run the day of Halloween. Step 2: think about it. But like actually think about it. Don’t just  stop for 30 seconds, take your time. Ask yourself: have you done it before, is everyone and their sister going to be wearing the same thing, are you dressing up as something you’re not, or know nothing about? If the answer is yes, then you probably should rethink your costume choice. Step 3: Talk to friends and people you trust about your decision. They will hopefully (I pray to Dios) call you out on it if it’s dumb, boring, or distasteful.

Unfortunately this process isn’t always followed. Some people fail to realize, or just flat out decide not to take their fellow human beings into consideration. This year my Halloween went from happy to crappy for this exact reason. By the end of that night, I had bumped into, spoken to, or yelled at a total of five fellow students dressed as Mexicans. Each donned the same last-minute, uncreative costume: a sombrero, a poncho, and a moustache. And I get it, you found these props at Wal-Mart, or maybe they were in your friends “costume trunk,” or maybe you found the same sweet deal online that Sodexo did when they decorated their “Cantina” section. But regardless of where you found it, you shouldn’t wear it, because it makes a mockery out of others.

That night I felt helpless, ostracized and attacked. And while these may be heavy words, they’re true. At some point that night, after seeing X number of people trying to emulate my culture, I cracked. I yelled at the top of my lungs because I was desperate. I was desperate for someone to acknowledge how messed up this whole thing is. The notion  “it doesn’t pertain to me, so it doesn’t/shouldn’t matter to me” won out once again. But in all honesty, I guess I should not have expected anything better from Colby. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen gross negligence on this on campus. Be it two frat stars dressing as geishas last year, a Mexican-themed fiesta in Grossman my sophomore year, or someone dressed as Treyvon Martin my freshman year. I expected to see the same thing again this year to some degree, but what I didn’t expect was for it to hit so close to home. And when I say that, I mean two specific individuals – one who proudly stated his costume portrayed Pablo Escobar (the notorious mass murderer and Columbian drug king-pin), and a certain someone who had the ignorance and sheer audacity to answer, when asked what his costume was, that he was not dressed as just a Mexican but a Cartel member. And when asked what cartel, he answered the “one that kills people.”

Now, I don’t hold a PhD in the history of costumes, but in my mind costumes are worn for four reasons: tradition, emulation, celebration, or mockery. And personally, I think it’s safe to say that the latter that fuels our decisions on Halloween. If we take this to be true then I can’t help but be wicked pissed (to use a colloquial term). Because that would mean that these two individuals not only decided to appropriate Latin culture, but decided to emulate individuals who are in the business of extortion and mass murder. To date, Mexico has seen approximately 164,000 civilian deaths because of the Drug War. It’s a staggering number that not only includes members of my family but has also steadily outpaced the combined death tolls in Afghanistan and Iraq. And perhaps you think you’re up to speed because of the new Netflix original series Narcos, but let me tell you personally, you are dead wrong.

I want Colby to be better, I know Colby can be better, and there’s no question that it should be better.


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