Presumably like most other homes in this country with young children in its residence, there has been a steady and ever increasing excitement percolating throughout our walls in anticipation for tomorrow's holiday. Candy! Classroom parties! Candy! Costumes! Goody bags filled with edible, plastic and even monetary treats from grandparents! Candy! Carving pumpkins! Corn mazes! Oh, and I did I mention the candy?
I never LOVED Halloween, but I didn't dread or despise it either. As a kid who never had regular access to sweets, I saw it more as an opportunity to get my hands on the goods that my parents would never dream of buying. But something about the dressing up part just seemed a bit off to me. And it didn't help matters when inevitably every year a classmate would remind me that it was too bad that I couldn't dress up in one of the "good" costumes such as Dorothy, Annie or Raggedy Ann because I didn't have the "right" skin color. Even though I know my parents would have supported my decision to be any one of those characters, I believed my peers. Who was I to challenge the famous image of a cultural icon or American heroine and suggest that it was okay to go as an Asian version? Better to be a witch, a cat or an inanimate object. As one of the few kids of color in my school, I already stood out enough as it was. Why invite more negative attention to myself by trying to be something that clearly was NOT going to be accepted by most?
I didn't have the right words to describe it back then, but I know I had the feeling - something along the lines of noticing that there was a certain Halloween privilege that was extended to virtually every other kid, except myself. I know it may sound odd to put it in these terms, but I do honestly remember feeling that Halloween was NOT an equal opportunity celebration. Whether expressly stated or not, in my mind there were some very real restrictions and conditions on the choices available to me; terms that simply did not exist for my white friends and family members.
This post, written by Thea Lim over at Racialicious does such an effective job of describing the general discomfort that many people of color have about the last day of October. Even now as a parent, I still have so much ambivalence about seeing my kids embrace this holiday. I can't help but inwardly brace myself each year when they excitedly announce their costume requests. Maybe I'm a bad parent that I secretly hope that my daughter won't ask to be a teen pop-singer (and maybe it's even worse that I wouldn't allow her to do it). Yes, I get the whole appeal of dressing up and I can recognize and appreciate the creativity that goes into this holiday, but something about the whole notion of wanting to be something that you're not - even if only for a day - doesn't sit altogether well with me, particularly when it comes to kids. Maybe because for me, my struggle in finding and accepting my own real identity - both as an adoptee as well as a person of color - seemed to be exacerbated around this time of year. Halloween was a time when peers and other kids could CHOOSE to experiment by being different and have fun while enjoying standing out amongst a crowd - but without any of the emotional baggage that occurs when you don't have the option and innate ability to immediately revert back into complete normalcy (at least by society's standards) when the party comes to a close.
Yes, my kids like Halloween. Yes, they are going trick or treating. No, I don't think people who love Halloween having unresolved identity issues by any means. It's not my favorite. I suppose the holiday is viewed by some as a completely innocuous event all-around, but I guess I'm just still not convinced.