19 Sexist & Racist Halloween Costumes You Should Stay The Hell Away From

With each passing day, Halloween inches ever closer. It's one of most fun holidays out there, and the necessity for costumes can give people a big creative outlet. Whether you're a do-it-yourself type or prefer piecing something together from existing or store-bought clothing, your body is your canvas! Unfortunately, though, sometimes people take their Halloween costume freedom a little further than they should ― OK, a lot further. To put it simply, there are a whole lot of racist and sexist Halloween costumes which you should never wear, under any circumstances. 

And even though most of these should be really obvious, maybe a helpful primer will help you avoid horribly offending anyone or bringing shame upon yourself. To be clear, though, it's not just about other people's reactions ― if you care about living up to standards of decency, good taste, and anti-racism, it's important that you comport yourself in such a way even when nobody is looking. Because it isn't just about what's outside, but what's inside, see?

So in that spirit, here's a list of Halloween costumes you absolutely should not emulate, unless you want your picture to end up in one of the inevitable "50 Most Racist/Sexist/Offensive Halloween Costume" stories that'll be written in early November.

1. Blackface Of Any Kind

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No. No. No. Do not do it. Blackface is a racist tradition that has grisly historical roots in America, but it really doesn't matter where you are or where you're from ― don't do it. It's racist and grotesque. No matter how obvious it might seem that this is wrong, some people always do it. DO. NOT.

2. "Indian" Costumes

Native Americans aren't Indian, of course ― that's a misnomer made by early European explorers in North America, and until relatively recently, most Americans haven't cared enough to correct it. But make no mistake, if you're of any non-Native race, you're going to deserve any hell you catch for dressing up in an offensive, stereotypical "Indian" costume.

3. Sexist Anti-Hillary Costumes

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If you want to dress up as Hillary Clinton, cool. If you want to dress up as a "scary" Hillary Clinton, cool! But if your costume is just an ill-concealed sexist barb ― if you're rolling out one of these gross shirts, for example ― then you've leapfrogged over the line, and you might make some people uncomfortable.

4. Culturally Offensive Costumes On Children

On the topic of offensive costumes which turn Native Americans into mascots, don't think you get a free pass just because you put one on a child. If you've got kids and are looking to help them with a costume, don't end up with something like this.

5. Dressing Up In Hitler Costumes...

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Adolf Hitler, the leader of the mass-murdering Nazi regime, is not a laughing matter, nor is he the type of acceptable "scary" that's appropriate for Halloween night.

6. ...Or In Fact, Any Nazi Costumes

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Pro tip: Dressing up as Hitler is not any funnier or more acceptable if you also dress up your baby as a Jewish prisoner of a Nazi death camp. It's just plain horrible.

7. Dressing Up As Refugees

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Thanks to the massive, tragic refugee crisis that the Syrian civil war has wrought, there are probably going to be more than a few people who think this is a good idea. They're very, very wrong.

8. Religious Garb As Halloween Costumes


Every year, some number of people decide to dress up in attire that has rich religious and cultural meaning, in ways that can be very crude and denigrating. Case in point: If you're not a practicing Muslim, donning a burqa for a Halloween party is offensive and demeaning in the extreme.

9. Inuit or Yupik Costumes

The traditional aesthetic of minority groups and cultures shouldn't be made into mascots or jokes for predominantly white American culture, and this is a great example. Inuit or Yupik Halloween costumes are not cool.

10. Blue Lives Matter

Like it or not, Blue Lives Matter is an inflammatory statement which denigrates the racial justice efforts of thousands upon thousands of Americans ― black, brown, and white alike. If you want to dress up as a police officer, that's well within the mainstream of Halloween costuming, but keep this phrase out of it.

11. Hypersexualized Soldiers

Dressing up in "sexy" military uniform costumes can be seen as demeaning to American women in combat, as well as disrespectful to American veterans in a general sense.

12. Stigmatizing Trump Costumes... 

Trump is bound to be a popular costume choice this year, and to be sure, he is a scary fellow. But remember: Trump has also become a rallying point for bigots, racists, and sexists, as well as an inspiration for xenophobic bullying incidents. And as such, dressing up like him could make members of the various groups he's denigrated feel uncomfortable and stigmatized. So if you're going to dress as Trump, make sure the costume is punching up, not down.

13. ...Or References To His Racist Policies

For a prime example: A costume poking fun at Trump's Mexico wall proposal is actually not that fun, because actual flesh-and-blood human beings have theirs and their families' futures on the line.

14. Offensive Asian Stereotypes

Trying to exploit Asian stereotypes is no more noble or less offensive than any other kind of racial stereotype, even though they're frustratingly more common and accepted in American society.

15. Costumes With Offensive Mexican Stereotypes

If there's an overriding principle here that's maybe becoming clear, it's that other racial groups and foreign cultures are not just fodder for our fun Halloween costumes. Do yourself a favor this year and avoid this kind of cultural appropriation.

16. Prisoner Jumpsuit Costumes

Whether you know anybody who's been to prison or not, whether you've led a life of struggle or relative privilege, the dynamics of racial injustice in sentencing and the sad state of America's prisons make dressing up as a convict a needlessly loaded proposition.

17. Crude Islamic Terrorism Costumes

If you're looking for a terrorism-related costume, first of all, that's not really the kind of subject matter that's going to win you many friends on Halloween night. But more importantly, many of them are wildly racist, entreating you to dress up as an Osama bin Laden-style caricature, as if "terrorism" and "Islam" are one and the same.

18. Jamaican Dreadlocks / Rastafari Costumes

If you're white, or even a person of color who isn't a Rastafari, know that this sort of costume is offensive on both cultural and religious lines.

19. Wearing Racist Sports Team Gear

Sorry, Cleveland Indians fans, but yeah, your team name and logo (the grotesque mascot "Chief Wahoo") are both super racist and unfit to be worn anytime, whether it's Halloween or not.

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Images: Amazon (15), IndianHeadress.com, HalloweenCostumes.com

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