Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ohio University students teach Halloween lesson for all seasons

Members of STARS [Students Teaching About Racism in Society] — an Ohio University student group dedicated to the prevention of racism through education and awareness — have a simple message especially timed for the start of Halloween season. 

“Stop and consider” the implications of what you do, say, and portray, is the way Seth Williams, ’13, describes the goal of the  group's 'We're a culture, not a costume' campaign. Williams, of Shaker Heights, is not a  STARS member  but was recruited to pose for one of the compelling posters the group has developed. 

The group has mounted a campaign to remind parents, students and children that ethnic groups and historic cultures should not be caricatured by costume representations.

Ethnic and racial stereotypes become increasingly popular around Halloween, and are often expressed in costumes that carry a deeper message than may be intended by their wearers.

While the student-led campaign has inspired much admiration on campus and beyond, detractors are also making themselves heard, raising questions of free speech, political correctness, and harmless fun.

Like affirmative action, political correctness is one of those terms most people have an opinion about, but few understand, thanks in part to a culture that reduces ideas to sound bites and a corporate media and contentious blogosphere that thrive on conflict in efforts to lasso those with short attention spans and limited training in critical thought.

We commend the students of STARS and join with them in the hope that open and honest dialogue can free all of us from the stereotypes we bear.

Read more about the 'We're a culture, not a costume' campaign here. Take a look at the posters here.

(Seth Williams of Shaker Heights is pictured in the upper right poster. His  parents are Shaker city councilman Earl Williams and Viveca Williams, a teacher at Adlai Stevenson Elementary in Cleveland OH.)

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