Student group: Race-based Halloween costumes no laughing matter

One of the posters from the STARS "We're a culture, not a costume" campaign Students Teaching About Racism in Society

A group of Ohio University students want you to think twice before deciding on a Halloween costume. STARS, which stands for Students Teaching About Racism in Society, has started an online campaign to make people aware that costumes that stereotype different races are not funny and may be hurtful to some people.

Using the slogan "We're a culture, not a costume. This is not who I am, and this is not okay," STARS hopes to educate the public and make them aware that they may be offending others with their choice of apparel.

Their PSA depicts people from different ethnic backgrounds holding up a picture of a culturally "stereotypical" Halloween costume. Included in the campaign are a poster of an African-American woman holding a picture of a woman in a blackface, and a Middle Eastern man displaying a picture of a man dressed as a terrorist of Middle Eastern descent. The ads are all visible on STARS' main website.

"During Halloween, we see offensive costumes. We don't like it, we don't appreciate it. We wanted to do a campaign about it saying, 'Hey, think about this. It's offensive,'" senior Sarah Williams, president of STARS, told CNN.

This isn't the first time that racism has been associated with the normally candy and costume holiday: Just earlier this month, the NYPD took down a Brooklyn residence's Halloween decoration -- a bloodied mannequin hung from a tree in a mock lynching. One local resident complained to NY1 that the police were overreacting. "I don't think that that portrays lynching," she told the station. "I mean, it's Halloween, that's part of the Halloween spirit. When I see a jack-o-lantern with a scary face on, I don't get scared and think monsters are going to come get me."

However, city officials disagreed. "Children have to come by and see someone hanging. This is not funny, this is not a joke. This is not a trick or a treat," said Brooklyn city council member Charles Barron.

Do you think racially based Halloween costumes are part of the fun or do they cross the line?

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