Cultural appropriation

This Halloween, there's no good way to be a 'bad hombre'

Lazy stereotypes aren't costumes, period.
Photo: Thad Zajdowicz

It’s too bad there’s no easy way to be a “bad hombre” for Halloween. It’s one of those great, timely costume ideas.

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But how do you poke fun at Donald Trump’s racist stereotyping and make your costume idea easy to understand, without reinforcing racist stereotypes?

The simple way to be a bad hombre would be to don a straw hat, draw a crooked mustache on your face, sling a colourful blanket over your shoulder and stick a toy gun in your back pocket.

By dressing as a cartoonish, racist, stereotype of a Mexican, you could be a bad hombre. But then you’re mocking the stereotype by embodying it, and you’ve kind of defeated your purpose.

Another way to ridicule Trump’s phrase is to dress as a Mexican man and pin a label on yourself. This would mean wearing jeans and a T-shirt, or anything else a regular person might wear. It would be a terrible costume because you’d hardly be dressed up at all. But if you’re one of those people who likes to make a statement, you’d be making one that’s very relevant this Halloween.

Over the past year, we’ve been awash in debates about political correctness. Trump spilled some of this mess over our border by making the war on political correctness part of his election platform. He has ridden high in the polls partly because he says things that a lot of people think, but feel they aren’t allowed to say anymore.

A lot of Canadians agree with Trump’s theory that “the powers that be” have conspired to make the world into a place where people are too easily offended. According to an Angus Reid poll released this past August, 76 per cent of Canadians think political correctness has “gone too far.”

After years spent profiting from jokes about a child’s disability, Quebec comedian Mike Ward was finally hauled before a human rights tribunal and charged with discrimination. He succeeded in spinning his plight into a public debate on freedom of expression, and a lot of people rushed to his defence.

Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto professor who is refusing to use genderless pronouns and feels it is his right to offend his students, is also doing a lot of chest thumping about freedom of expression.

Peterson has even gone so far as to liken the Trudeau government’s Bill C-16, which proposes to outlaw harassment and discrimination based on gender identity and expression, to being policed by a “totalitarian and authoritarian state.”

People who oppose political correctness like to compare our current ideological climate to the one in Animal Farm, George Orwell’s famous novel about Stalinist Russia. In the book, rules about language and behaviour are written on a barn door and corrected over and over again until they become nonsensical and tyranny reigns.

But we do not live in a society governed by humourless thought police who throw people into gulags for criticizing those in power. Far from it.

Mike Ward, Jordan Peterson and Donald Trump are older, wealthy, white, heterosexual men who occupy positions of power. They’re members of a group that’s always had the upper hand. Given the amount of public support their arguments have received, it’s clear the world isn’t changing at a head-dizzying speed.

Is it really such a disappointment that I can’t think of a suitable bad hombre costume? And that if I want to make fun of someone I have to put some thought into how I go about it? All that advocates for political correctness ask is that we be considerate of others. Political correctness is not and has never been about censorship. It’s about learning how to treat people with respect.

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