'We Are a Culture, Not a Costume': Racism Awareness Campaign for Halloween

A group of students from Ohio University have started an ad campaign to end racism by drawing attention to racist and culturally insensitive Halloween costumes.

The project, dubbed “We are a culture, not a costume,” began on the OU campus by the student group STARS (Students Teaching Against Racism in Society), but has quickly gone viral.

"The best way to get rid of stereotypes and racism is to have a discussion and raise awareness, which is what we want to do with this campaign," senior Sarah Williams, president of STARS, said on CNN.

The ads show students from various ethnic groups holding up pictures of stereotypical costumes. Some ads include an Asian girl holding up a picture of a Geisha costume, while others show a Hispanic student holding up a picture of a man wearing a sombrero costume while riding a fake donkey.

The organizers of the campaign say the ads are meant to get students thinking about the offensive nature of some costumes.

"During Halloween, we see offensive costumes,” Williams said. “We don't like it. We don't appreciate it.”

That sentiment has garnered support from school officials.

"I think it's a clean way of raising awareness of how the costumes you choose might be offensive. In many cases, students aren't doing it maliciously, but they might not realize the consequences of their actions on others," Ryan Lombardi, Ohio University’s Dean of Students, said on CNN.

The campaign seems to be generating mixed reactions across the Internet.

“It’s about respect, human dignity, and the acceptance of other cultures,” Melissa Sipin said in a blog post about the campaign ad.

The WordPress blog post has received more than 150,000 hits, and generated enough critical comments that Sipin removed the comment function completely.

“I had to disable comments for this blog post since there are some rude, racist people out there,” Sipin said on her blog.

The attention the ad campaign is getting seems to be exactly what its creators wanted to achieve.

“We wanted to do a campaign about it saying, 'Hey, think about this. It's offensive’," Williams told CNN.