Fright Night

In the U.S., Halloween is mainly a children’s holiday where children use homemade or store-bought costumes of recent years’ most popular silver and small screen characters in the pursuit of candy. Or, conversely, adults similarly buying or making costumes in other pursuits. Underneath the pomp and circumstance of a schoolyard parade or a festive party lies bodily and spatial politics that bring a doom and gloom to the haunted holiday and leaves children and others policed and prohibited. It’s close to All Hallow’s Eve, and something’s lurking in the dark.


(photo found via Huffington Post)

Individuals who have rights and citizenship of their respective country through the guardianship of their parents, children inhabit a special protected class in the United States. A nearby Pennsylvania town recently recently decided to institute wristbands for candy seeking children to clearly designate what child was from the area and who wasn’t. This NIMBY* approach to the possible trick-or-treating of neighboring children, of differing color or class, reads like a millennial redlining of residential space. However, where the redlining of the 40s and 50s kept people of color from owning houses or renting apartments in certain spaces, here, children are denied a leisure activity associated with childhood or are surveilled as they attempt it. Similar attempts to remap trick-or-treating trails include one city’s petition to celebrate the holiday a day earlier. Spatial politics of proximity, behavior, surveillance, and belonging come together over the possibility of kids from the other side of town taking finite resources from neighborhood kids (candy) or acting inappropriately (destroying property, theft, etc.). These examples demonstrate the juvenile policing of bodies during Halloween, a practice growing in notoriety.


 (photo found via Colorlines)

The other side of the body policing coin comes in the form of colloquial racialized passing. The two most viral examples of such include the actress/dancer Julianna Hough’s Blackface of a character from the series “Orange Is the New Black” and those individuals who created costumes revolving around the death of a Black Floridian teen and his candy of choice. The term “colloquial racialized passing” highlights at first the ordinariness of the use of Black/Brown/Yellowface. To use the some-other-person powers granted during Halloween’s twenty-four hours, people not of color take the opportunity to dress as who they perceive to be as opposites: dead airline stewards, a hanging victim, a stereotype.


(photo found via Imgur)

 In passing as these caricatures, these individuals hope to be informally recognized at a party or a parade, as the more formal recognition of an employer, a university, or a media outlet may not provide a favorable outcome. The adoption of a racialized identity for temporary play is not new to this Halloween or others, but the immediacy and connectivity of the internet alters community responses to such outbursts. What does this do, if anything, this ability to adopt and discard identities based on cork/shoepolish or bronzer/tanner?


(photo via Fashionbombdaily)

Conversations about bodies and race are difficult in the United States, understandably. Yet they must be had so that the power behind colloquial racialized passing and juvenile body policing may be unpacked and possibly upended. For many, the festive properties of Halloween are negated when confronted with a costume and a contention that


(quotes via Reddit)

 Historical and contemporary issues surrounding raceplay make colloquial racialized passing a series of horrifying images walking in masquerade. Still, not a thriller.

[NIMBY* – An acronym for “not in my backyard.”]


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