This is America: I’m a Black person who loves Halloween. Please stop ruining it for me
Hello! Welcome to the This is America newsletter, which deals with race, identity and how we shape our lives. I'm N’dea Yancey-Bragg, a trendy news reporter who focuses on race and identity (you guessed it).
I love halloween. I love eating ridiculous amounts of fun size candy. I love to come up with "punny" costumes and convince my cat to wear them. I think "Monster Mash" beats that.
As much as I love this holiday, the racist undercurrents in the way some people celebrate it makes my skin crawl for the wrong reasons.
It's a stupid thing to complain about the very urgent threats disproportionately large to people of skin color, including police brutality, a global pandemic and voter suppression. But it's just another item in a long list of stressful memories that racism creeps into every part of your life.
USA TODAY's N'dea Yancey-Bragg no longer fits in this Barney costume, but still loves dinosaurs.
But first: race and justice news that we're watching right now
Last week's key stories from the US TODAY and other news sources.
Protests escalate in Philadelphia: Thousands have taken to the streets to protest the police killing of Walter Wallace, a black man who was shot by police while holding a knife after the family hailed an ambulance had been looking for a mental crisis. The shooting was recorded on video on Monday.
"An Incredible Chain of Suppression": America's History of Racism was a pre-existing condition for COVID-19
Million Man March: 25 years ago, black men united in their pain - and power.
Worked to death: Latino farm workers have long been denied basic rights. COVID-19 has shown how deadly racism can be.
"I'm being evicted from my home": Some Americans who struggled early in the crisis are close to work, others find work
I shouldn't have to say this, but could anyone stop making racist costumes?
Soon after I graduated from college and moved to Virginia, politicians made headlines in my new home state for wearing black faces in school. You could have thought when they joked live on Saturday night this week that it was the 80s! They didn't know then it was wrong, and now things must be different! You are wrong!
Although a small majority of Americans (53%) believe that it is generally unacceptable for a white person to use makeup to darken their skin in order to be a different race as part of a Halloween costume, About one in three said this is always the case or sometimes acceptable, according to a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center.
Blackface in Virginia: This and other incidents show how deeply ingrained racism against blacks is in America
The same poll found that nearly 60% of Americans believed it was always or sometimes acceptable for someone to wear traditional clothing from a country or culture other than their own as part of a Halloween costume.
This is called cultural appropriation and perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
"We're Better Than That": Idaho Teachers Get Paid Vacation After Dressing Up As Border Wall, Latinos For Halloween
The idea that blackface and other race-insensitive costumes are wrong is still relatively new, according to Susan Scafidi, author of Who Owns Culture: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law.
Scafidi said the conversation went mainstream five years ago when Yale University was embroiled in controversy for asking its students not to wear racially insensitive costumes.
Dressing up as someone of a different race or ethnicity reduces an entire culture to certain stereotypes, explained Scafidi. "It diminishes the culture that the cartoon is from," Scafidi said. "There is economic damage and there is psychological or emotional damage."
Traits that a white person might exaggerate as part of a costume are the same very enduring physical traits that a black person can physically endanger on a daily basis.
More: Comedian's 'racist' Kim Jong Un costume causes outrage
It's frustrating for people with color who still have to explain that their culture isn't a costume, but Scafidi believes the younger generation is less accepting of such costumes. Let's hope so.
Lynching is a terrible part of black history, not an inspiration for Halloween decorations
In the fall of 2018, after working full-time at USA TODAY, I was hired to write a story about how the Illinois police removed a Halloween decoration that looked very much like a lynched black man. I remember one editor telling me that unfortunately this kind of story comes up every year.
Despite removing the decoration, Illinois police said there was "no malicious intent" behind the display.
"These kinds of images can't help but bring up the picture of the actual black people hanging out in this country," said Koritha Mitchell, author of "Living With Lynching: African American Lynching, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930." "told me." It is insincere to pretend that 'oh, it's just generally scary' in a country that has terrorized very specific people with this type of violence in the past. "
Brutal Mob Violence Documentation: America's Lynch Story is now online
According to a groundbreaking study published in 2017 by the Equal Justice Initiative, more than 4,300 people were lynched in 20 states. Mitchell explained that lynching was a tactic used to terrorize black people - especially those who were successful, open, or exercised their right to vote - as a "reminder to worry about keeping your right place."
She pointed out that even if the people who show snares aren't aware of America's history of lynching, they can still do harm.
There are many options for Halloween decorations like this $ 300 skeleton from Home Depot or this lawn sign that literally says 2020 only. Can we all agree to stick with decorations that won't evoke centuries of racial trauma?
The Black Horror Renaissance is here to save Halloween 2020
As you might have guessed, horror is my favorite genre. Don't get me wrong, I'm always here to buy healthier foods like "Halloweentown" or "Hocus Pocus", but what is Halloween without a good fear?
It's hard to notice, however, that scary movies rarely, if ever, work properly - if at all - because of their color characters.
"Black people have always loved horror, but horror hasn't always loved us," said Tananarive Due, executive producer of the documentary "Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror."
The horrors of 'Get Out' are real: Jordan Peele's deconstruction of racism is now even more frightening
"Black characters have been ignored or very, very thin characters, very trope-y based on stereotypes," said Due, who also teaches a class on black horror at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Like the naughty friend over and over again who will die early."
I was surprised to learn that the fact that black characters die first may not be all that common: A 2013 analysis of 50 popular horror films by Complex found that one or all of black characters die at some point in 70% of films. They only die first in 0.1% of films. I think that's nice.
Study: Two out of three black Americans do not see themselves represented in films or on television
I found it encouraging that Due and my colleague Rasha Ali pointed out that we are slowly but surely seeing more black stories come to the fore, especially in the horror genre. It felt like a personal gift to me when Jordan Peele made "Get Out," which he quickly followed with "Us" and a reboot of "Twilight Zone".
Due said that stories like "Get Out" and "Lovecraft Country," which portray racism as a monster, work so well because blacks have long been prevented from sharing the trauma that has marked our history.
In a year that has felt more challenging than most, Due can offer powerful hours of survival, according to horror. Horror isn't always about courage and blood, it can be about finding the courage to face the worst test of your life, and sometimes you can even beat the monster.
I'm usually not an optimist, but I hope that someday all the black girls who love scary movies don't think it's unusual to see themselves survive you.
Next week: Mabinty Quarshie and Fatima Farha discuss the 2020 elections.
This is America is a weekly breaking news shot from a rotating group of USA TODAY journalists from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. If you see this newsletter online or if someone has forwarded it to you, you can register here. If you have any feedback for us, we'd love you to drop it here.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Halloween 2020: I'm a black person who loves Halloween. Please stop ruining it for me
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