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The masks we wear: trick, treat, and tragedy

Counting the Cost

Julianne Malveaux | 11/7/2013, midnight

That’s the mask of arrogance; the mask of “I’m White. I’m going to do whatever I choose to do;” a mask that allows them to ignore common decency.

In 2011, Ohio University started a campaign that suggested that student be mindful of the Halloween costumes they chose. The “we’re a culture not a costume” has spread to several universities, but apparently it has not spread widely enough.

Two White men in Florida declared “anything for a laugh” when one, wearing a “Stand Your Ground” T-shirt (posing as George Zimmerman) seems to be shooting his black-faced, hoodie-clad White friend who is supposed to be Trayvon Martin. Why is this appropriate or amusing? The arrogance of White people suggests that they can make a joke, and suggests that all people of color are their jokes. The massacre of a young Black man, for them, is not tragedy but an occasion for mockery.

“We wear the mask that grins and lies, that hides our cheeks and shades our eyes.” For some, masks are concealing, for others revealing. Those who choose to mute their reaction to a racist world are adapting. Those who think that black face is appropriate are attacking. It is tragic that Halloween, a day conceived for children to have fun, has become an occasion for masks that attack, and for those who make excuses for them.

Julianne Malveaux is a D.C.-based economist and writer and president emerita of Bennett College for Women.

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