The "Illegal Alien" costume causing uproar amongst immigrant rights activists, anti-immigrant supporters and free speech advocates is the first major faux pas of this Halloween season. While anti-immigrant supporters are scrambling to find the costume, immigrant rights activists are calling for a public boycott of the suit.
"We feel it's dehumanizing and that it's inappropriate. We're trying to put a face on immigrant issues and this costume takes away from that by making fun of them," says Houstonian Cesar Espinosa, executive director of America Para Todos.
Espinosa is not alone. The costume is no longer available online at Toys"R"Us or Amazon, we assume due to the controversy. It is, however, still available on Walgreen's website. (Update: No longer!!!)
Here are Hair Balls top 5 major costume mistakes so far in the 21st Century:
October 2002 - Walmart, Party City and Urban Outfitters offer "Kung Fool" and "Chinese Man" costumes to buyers, drawing ire from the Asian community. Featuring buckteeth and slanted-eyed masks, Fu-Manchu style mustache, a pigtail and glasses, the suits caused a national protest that took the outfits off the shelves.
January 2005 - Prince Harry of Wales dons a Nazi uniform including the swastika armband to a party. "He apologised...after the mistake became public, " the Lord Chancellor told the BBC. The conservatives of the country wanted a public apology but since Prince Harry is royalty, that request wasn't met.
October 2006 - UT Austin law students throw a "Ghetto Fabulous" costume party. And, of course, posted party photos online. "We had no intention...to choose a group or class of people and make fun of them," said the student who posted the pictures. But the photos of white students with 40-ouncers, shiny grills and "ethnic" nametags were too much for some to let slide. Black law students of the Thurgood Marshall Legal Society brought national attention to the incident and shamed UT into at least addressing the problem, although no disciplinary action came of it.
October 2007 - Penn State University students dressed up as Virginia Tech shooting victims in VA Tech garb, complete with bloody bullet holes, and posted some of the party photos to their Facebook accounts. The VA Tech massacre had taken place only six months previously, so naturally the costumes really pissed some folks off. It even spawned another Facebook site, "People against this costume." One student apologized for the unwanted publicity but the other, Nathan Jones, did not, citing free-speech rights. Jones eventually lost his job at Bank of America over the affair.
October 2007 - Julie Meyers, assistant secretary over Immigration and Customs Enforcement division (ICE), was a judge for a company Halloween party who gave the "most original costume" award to an employee who dressed in dark facial make-up, dreadlocks and a black-and-white prison outfit. Meyers even posed for a picture with the winner. The photo was posted to the ICE site until someone complained. The Associated Press later reported that Meyers issued an apology and that the offending employee was put on leave. Blackface, of course, is a not-so-original concept dating back to the 1830s. Since then, it's been considered kinda offensive, except (we guess) at Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Moral of the story: Stereotypical costumes are continually coming under fire as racial equality finds its way through our society. Already the murmurs of dissatisfied ethnic groups are beginning to be heard about Arab, Gypsy and Asian Geisha costumes. Hair Balls' best suggestion to those of you who still want to exercise your free-speech right to offend but not draw the ire of an entire community: Dress up as a specific person -- that way you only piss off one person and not an entire ethnic group.
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