Clown Costumes Banned, Racist Native American Costumes Still OK

Tiffany Midge

Prompted by a creepy clown threat posted on a Colorado student’s Facebook account, along with the onslaught of creepy clown sightings and situations occurring all across the country in two dozen states, several Colorado public schools have imposed a ban of clown costumes and apparel from school property. No big, red squeaky noses, no giant daisy flowers that spurt water, no oversized clown shoes. It’s a very sad day at the circus.

Denver Pubic Schools issued the following statement. “In an effort to minimize the concern for students, families and educators, the district is banning all clown masks and clown makeup from the schools, school grounds, and athletic facilities, during this Halloween season.”

While it’s understandable that clown costumes would be banned from public spaces, they are after all terrifying to many people who suffer from coulrophobia (clown phobia), but what’s more difficult to understand is that racist Native American inspired costumes are perfectly acceptable. Native social justice activists have been speaking out against Native American themed costumes for many years, yet companies still produce them, and stores still order and sell them. When I contacted the costume supply store in my small town and complained, the owner said that they couldn’t afford to stop selling them, that their Pocahottie, Indian Brave, and Big Chief costumes were their top sellers for Halloween.

Colorado school Brighton 27J reportedly decided to ban clown costumes believing that it is the best way to avoid perpetuating clown fear or paranoia. Another school, Adams 12 has also issued a prohibition encouraging parents to discuss the power of social media because that was where the clown problem all started.

Should McDonald’s mascot clown Ronald McDonald be outlawed? Should authorities place an embargo on Jack in the Box? These are good questions, but an even better question is wtf, universe? Why are there menacing clown reports in two dozen states since April? And why are scary clowns more threatening than say, well, I don’t know, RACISM?

It’s a matter of perspective I suppose, right?

This development reminds me of when Cecil the Lion was killed and the international media attention and outpouring of outrage that resulted. Feminist and author Roxane Gay responded with her now famous Tweet for how to draw attention to police violence in America — violence that has overwhelmingly impacted black men, women and children. She tweeted “I’m personally going to start wearing a lion costume when I leave my house so if I get shot, people will care.”

While no one would dream of tailoring a Pocahottie, Chief, or Indian Brave costume to sinister ends, I mean what would that even look like? And aside from the fact that the existence of those costumes are already heinous and disturbing enough to Native people, would dressing up in Native American inspired costumes and lurking around the edges of housing developments and neighborhood parks be enough to cause a public crisis? Would taking back the image of blood thirsty savage strike fear and panic in the hearts of ordinary citizens? Would roving Pocahottie hoards be enough to banish such costumes for Halloween, or even forever?

“In the news today, sinister-looking Pocahotties were spotted lurking outside a wooded area near an apartment complex…”

“Keep your children and pets indoors tonight, an ominous-looking Tonto with giant bird on his head, was seen near Forest Glenn public park this evening…”

“A man dressed in a noble warrior deluxe Native American costume was reported last evening crouching among trees…

Last month, Disney’s offensive Moana skin suit with tattoos costumes were pulled from the shelves. That represents a glimmer of progress.

Tiffany is an assistant poetry editor at The Rumpus, and an award winning author of The Woman Who Married a Bear. Her work is featured in McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Okey-Pankey, The Butter, Waxwing, and Moss. She is Hunkpapa Lakota. Follow her on Twitter @TiffanyMidge

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turbojesus's picture
If they dressed up like native americans, then they just would have been shot.
ThinkLess's picture
Most Halloween costumes are supposed to be funny or scary. Few are historically and/or culturally accurate. Costumes are cheap but they have to exaggerate the details so people understand what they are dressed as. Pocahottie is not the only costume by far to be marketed as sexy. And is Pocahontas also regarded as a famous person in history? A costume doesn’t define her. Racism has not been forgotten, don’t worry, but the sudden mass emergence of creepy Clowns threatening schools, assaulting people and luring children into the woods is something that also cannot be ignored.