An Open Letter to White People Who Dressed Up as Kodak Black for Halloween

Dear fellow white people,

First, the good news: So far, there are no confirmed reports of people wearing blackface and claiming that they’re being Kodak Black for Halloween. Good job, everybody!

The bad news: A lot of you still dressed up as Kodak Black, just without the blackface. And you look like idiots at best or offensive racial caricatures at worst.

Let’s review some of the mistakes from the past three days.

Hey, Rebecca! Can we call you Becky? Cool. Okay, so, as you may already be aware, there’s an ongoing debate on Twitter over whether or not it's offensive for white people who dress up as black rappers for Halloween. And (unsurprisingly, given that we’re talking about a very large and diverse group of individuals) not all black people share one common point of view on this.

There are some people who will tell you that it doesn’t bother them; you should feel free to dress up as your favorite rapper as long as you don’t do blackface. There are others who will say you’re reducing hip-hop culture to a set of stereotypes — e.g. grills and face tattoos — and appear to be treating it as a joke rather than a serious art form. Some feel that white people wearing bantu knots is a form of cultural appropriation. And then there’s the fact that black people are routinely discriminated against for the way they dress and style their hair, which makes it super tacky for white people to be like, “Cool, I’m going to try out this look for Halloween, and everyone will think it’s cute and funny, and then I’ll go back to my normal life in which I never get stopped by the police and no one ever assumes I’m not a doctor just because of the color of my skin.

Obviously, it’s a free country, and you can do whatever you want. But from one white person to another: Please just stop. It’s been a really bad year for white people already, and we don’t need any more negative publicity.

An observation: The vast majority of the white people who dressed up as Kodak Black for Halloween were wearing prison jumpsuits. If you want to be charitable, you can conclude that white people are both lazy and uncreative, and most of them were in Party City the night before Halloween, saying to themselves, “I know! I’ll just wear a prison uniform and put my hair in those little knot things and draw some tattoos on my face, and then I’ll totally look like Kodak Black!” Or you can contemplate the fact that an incredibly talented black artist who has recently had some legal troubles is now being defined solely by his jail time and his criminal record. Your choice.

Oh, God, no. Someone actually thought it was a good idea to dress up as slutty Kodak Black for Halloween. No, no, no. This is not okay. NEXT.

Okay, so this kid looks to be about 11, as further evidenced by the fact that he’s quoting the cleaned-up version of “No Flocking.” And it’s not entirely fair to expect a middle schooler to be aware of the full sociopolitical context of his costume — which is why this one goes out to all the white parents out there: What is wrong with you? When your kids are old enough to list the key factors leading to mass incarceration in the United States at the end of the late 20th Century and how they perpetuated existing racial inequities, then they’re old enough to make their own decisions about dressing up in a prison jumpsuit for Halloween. Until then, you have an obligation to stop them from embarrassing their future selves.

Um. Guys. You do realize that looks nothing like Kodak Black's hair, right? He wears bantu knots. That wig, which you should probably burn, is a badly done attempt at short dreadlocks. They are not the same thing. Not even close. Seriously, you're making the rest of us look bad here.

Hi, Jessica! A quick scroll through your Instagram account (it looks like your trip to Myrtle Beach was super fun!) suggests that you are not, in fact, a “project baby.” Which means that you probably haven’t had to deal with the unfair stigmas that come with actually living in a housing project and probably haven’t felt the need to lie about where you live or give out a fake address on a job application so that you’ll get a call back. So, please, out of respect to people who have to deal with that reality all year round, don’t spend Halloween pretending to be a “project baby” because you think it’s cool or funny or whatever.

Um. Are these Hanna Andersson pajamas? Cause if so... that’s embarrassing. Literally nothing says "clueless white person" like dressing up in your organic cotton Swedish long johns and pretending to be an incarcerated rapper for Halloween.

*deep breath* This is the problem with dressing up as your favorite rapper. If you try too hard to look exactly like him (putting your hair in bantu knots, for instance), you’re getting into cultural appropriation territory. If you don’t try at all… well, the result is something like this. Either way, you're bound to offend somebody. Fortunately, there are approximately 100 million other things you can be for Halloween instead. Be a hot dog. A case of Lacroix. A Galaxy 7 that caught fire. Whatever. And for the love of God, if you're a white kid from the suburbs, please refrain from ever using the words "Thug Life" (or writing them on your knuckles in Sharpie.) It's not a good look.

White people, we tried our best to warn you. And you didn’t listen. Please, let's all try to do better next Halloween.


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