Is it racist to dress up as a dementor?

It may not be as celebrated everywhere, but Halloween surely is in Aberystwyth. Shops decorate for the occasion and there’s no need to ring the alarm bells when you see creepy figures roam around town. Many clubs have Halloween themed socials but costumes don’t necessarily have to be scary. I always panic when I need to think of what to dress up as but last week we started yet another Harry Potter marathon (the 4th one since I started university!) and suddenly the idea came to me to dress up as a dementor.

It is quite simple to dress up as a dementor. All you need are black clothes, a black sheet and skeleton hands. Iben had a great time ripping the sheet apart as to give the sheet a floaty effect. Naturally, I wore a black hood and to finish it off, I let Ella paint my entire face black, ears included.

‘O my god you’re scary.’

On my way to the social, I saw one of my teammates. I waved as I walked towards her but she backed away and seemed startled before she realised… ‘O my god I didn’t recognise you.’
‘Stop looking at me you are terrifying!’ was the general response I got throughout the night. I was greatly amused. My costume had worked out brilliantly!

However, once inside Yoko’s (a local club), a guy told me he was greatly offended by my black painted face. ‘I am a creature,’ I exclaimed, ‘not a human being!’ He displayed a few hurt faces and as he walked off his teammates started to have a go at me.

Is it racist to paint your face black in order to dress up as a dementor? I don’t think so. However, this happening raised another question. Is it bad to paint yourself black when it offends someone even if it is not meant to offend anyone? Is my desire to dress up as this creature more important than someone else’s offence? Yet, at the same time, hasn’t the use of the term racism in society been taken too far?

I can’t pretend to understand the pain suffered by black people as a result of the oppression by white people. I definitely think it is important to listen to one another and if someone is hurt then he or she must be heard. However, if we want to move forward as a society I think we need to stop classifying everything as being racist.

This year for Halloween, many people dressed up as Harley Quinn. People choose to dress up as Harley Quinn because they think she’s cool. Now let’s say Harley Quinn was black, would that mean white people are not allowed to dress up as Harley Quinn? What about Finn from the newest Star Wars film? People love him so surely dressing up as him can only be a good representation?

In the Book Thief, a book written by Markus Zusak, Rudy Steiner who is at that moment a seven-year-old boy becomes a huge fan of a Jesse Owens, a black American man who won four gold medals during the 1936 Olympics held in Munich. He admires Owens so much that he paints his face black with charcoal and tries to reenact one of Owens winning races. Is this a racist thing to do?

On the night out, someone else told me his friend with a dark skin colour, did not think my costume was racist and told me to enjoy my night. I did enjoy my night. Mostly, it seemed like I scared the crap out of everyone. But maybe not everyone is ready for my costume yet.

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