Each Halloween we are inundated with all sorts of outrageous pictures of the year's costumes. The most "popular" ones usually reflect the most discussed people and issues of the previous twelve months. With the increasing prevalence of social media across all facets of our daily lives, sharing photos and Halloween go together like hand and glove.
Despite the nature of how Halloween evolves from year-to-year, the use of blackface does not. Each and every year we're required to re-inform, explain and teach young (and not-so-young) people the history and implications of incorporating blackface into costumes.
Some who do it claim ignorance, trying to mock our collective intelligence. Every year we have had these same discussions. Claiming ignorance is simply not a believable option any longer. It's being done with unbridled impudence, daring a response.
Blackface is inextricably linked to segregation and minstrel shows in which black people weren't even ALLOWED to "portray" black characters in entertainment. Not funny then, not funny now. When one dons blackface, it is thumbing one's nose at an era in which people like me could not even drink out of the same water fountain, be served in eateries or attend the same public schools.
And to also attach that to Travyon Martin...?
Given the controversial nature of the Zimmerman verdict, someone dressing up as a "shot" Trayvon Martin does so expecting not to encounter African-Americans. He does so expecting both safety and cover.
The reason that "Crips and Bloods," "thug" or "Africa" parties only happen in the suburbs is because there is an expectation of cover; the belief that no REAL crips, bloods, thugs et al. will show up. These costumes aren't being worn out of ignorance, but in defiance. They know that if ANY of the mocked actually show up... party's over and with a quickness.
Gang signs, gold chains and blackface are way more "funny" when there's no likelihood of real black people walking through the door. That's the whole point.
It's not that young people don't know any better, it's that they simply don't care and assume there are no consequences to the behavior. This is where and why I love social media.
If you take the time to put on blackface, a hoodie and attend a Halloween party to generate laughs in 2013, then you should be willing to also deal with the consequences, whatever they may be. Let the chips fall where they may. From social media ridicule to even employment jeopardy, such is the cost of blatant disrespect.
I'm good with all of it. If you can wear the costume, you can also deal with the consequences.
Nobody is impeding one's supposed First Amendment rights. Congress is not creating any law here, so this does not involve the First Amendment. Nobody is advocating for jail or even citations for "offenders." The First Amendment refers to prosecution, not persecution. If you are ridiculed in the media... good. If your behavior brings shame to your family name, I'm good with it. You knew better and did it anyway. Let the chips fall where they may.
William Filene, 25, dressed up as Martin, covering his face in black paint and donning a gray sweatshirt with a single bullet hole surrounded by fake blood. Filene, who also lives in Cape Coral, was arrested in June for felony auto theft. His rap sheet also included collars for loitering/prowling and failing to register an automobile," writes The Smoking Gun. "In a plea deal, Filene copped to the auto theft charge during an August hearing in Lee County Circuit Court. He was sentenced to 18 months probation, and now has his own page on the Florida Department of Corrections web site."
The sickening irony and hypocrisy of the 25-year-old felon, dressing up as the slain minor with no criminal record (just for laughs) is not lost on African-Americans.
If your behavior leads to your employer being embarrassed and you subsequently being fired for your actions like Caitlin Cimeno I'm all good with it.
If Trayvon Martin was a "thug" (with no criminal record) armed with a sidewalk and deserved to die (as the silly narrative goes), then what should I think about the fate of the bona fide felon with multiple arrests in a Trayvon Martin costume?
Ponder that for a moment...
Here's what I think... I think he needs to wear the costume in a black neighborhood, complete with Skittles and iced tea... and see how he is received. Being highlighted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will be the least of his concerns. Don't mock African-Americans from afar, in the safety of your gated community; do it in our presence, to our face.
Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon's mother) testified before Congress Tuesday to assist with the movement to get SYG laws changed. This issue is anything but emotionally settled.
Yes, we are free in this country to offend, disrespect and disregard any and all other people. But we are not free to do so without consequences. Wear all the Trayvon Martin costumes you like, but just be sure to wear them and go trick-or-treating in black neighborhoods too. The moment you decide not to, should be the clearest indicator you're on the other side of the line of decency. You get to decide your Halloween costume, I have no say in that. But I get to decide what my response will be and you have no say in that either.
We should all respect the Zimmerman verdict, regardless of how we may feel about it. Conversely, that respect does not extend to tasteless Halloween costumes and is highly irresponsible to assume it does.
We'll pick up this conversation, same time next year with a new round of idiots.
Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is host of "The Mo'Kelly Show" on KFI AM640/XM Satellite and "Mo'Kelly in the Morning" on KTLK AM1150. The Mo'Kelly Report is a syndicated politics and entertainment journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and all commentary is welcome.