College Asks Students Not to Wear Offensive Halloween Costumes

Students are being asked to avoid wearing blackface, sombreros, and dressing up as "squaws" or cowboys

By Cathy Rainone
|  Thursday, Oct 24, 2013  |  Updated 2:46 PM PDT
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Students are being asked to avoid wearing sombreros, blackface, and dressing up as "squaws" or cowboys

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Please think twice before dressing up as a cowboy or geisha for Halloween, one university is urging its students.

The University of Colorado at Boulder is asking students not to wear costumes that others might find offensive. It advised them not to dress as geishas, cowboys and Indians and not to wear blackface or sombreros.

"Making the choice to dress up as someone from another culture, either with the intention of being humorous or without the intention of being disrespectful, can lead to inaccurate and hurtful portrayals of other peoples' cultures in the CU community," Dean of Students Christina Gonzales said in a message to students.

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She added that some students have also hosted "offensively-themed parties" — like "ghetto" or "hillbilly" — that reinforce classist stereotypes, and others with themes linked to crime or sex work.

CU is not the only school encouraging students to ponder their costume choices. The University of Minnesota recently sent an email to students warning against costumes that "inappropriately perpetuate racial, cultural and gender stereotypes," too.

At Ohio University, a student group called Students Teaching About Racism in Society organized a campaign against racist Halloween costumes. Its members took photos of four white students dressed up as various caricatures for their poster campaign, including one in blackface.

CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard told watchdog group Campus Reform that while the school condemns such costumes, students will not be penalized for wearing them.

"When you dress up as a cowboy, and you have your sheriff badge on and a big cowboy hat, that's not a representation of a cowboy, that's not a representation of people who work on a ranch that's not a representation of people who live in the West, that's kind of a crude stereotype," Hilliard said.

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