Halloween is the one time of the year when both kids and adults have the perfect excuse to dress up in scary, whimsical, and unique costumes. Whether it’s dressing up as our favorite superhero, a rotting zombie, or the tooth fairy, everyone can enjoy a break from the norm for an evening. The sweet treats throughout the month are also a great bonus.
However, as much as many of us enjoy this spooky time of year, Halloween is becoming more and more politicized and used to further divisive dialog. It seems that, in today’s political climate, not even trick-or-treaters are safe.
The Partisan Rhetoric: Halloween Candy
It’s been a year since Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that infamous photo of his daughter, suggesting he take half her candy in an effort to teach her about socialism. Of course this rhetoric is an easy one to dismantle. It’s more socialist to send children around asking neighbors for free candy, but beyond that, it’s rather disappointing to see a child’s Halloween haul used as an excuse to peddle a (weak) political agenda — and by her own father, no less.
While it is important to take advantage of teaching opportunities when it comes to our kids, many would argue that using a 3-year-old’s Halloween candy isn’t exactly the right time, meaning Donald Trump Jr. simply used his daughter to mock socialism, a concept he clearly doesn’t even understand. It’s fair and important to talk about socialism and other political topics — but why involve a child who doesn’t even understand that you’re taking a photo of her and her pumpkin bucket to taunt the other side?
What Donald Trump Jr. seems unaware of is this could have actually been an appropriate teaching moment that didn’t involve attempting to tear down socialism and, let’s be honest, the left. It is actually a good idea to take some of your children’s Halloween candy, but not for political reasons.
Teaching our children the importance of not overindulging on candy to the point of sickness is an appropriate conversation to have. Moreover, as any dentist would recommend, rationing out Halloween candy each day is not only a good idea for their oral health, but can help keep them motivated to keep up on chores, homework, and more. That’s the kind of lesson we should be teaching our small kids, rather than using them to set off a partisan argument on Twitter.
This year, it seemed that the biggest Halloween argument revolved around age. The conversation is not a new one but was ignited this year after the city of Chesapeake, Virginia announced possible jail time for any child over 12 caught trick-or-treating. While they are not the only town to have age restrictions on Halloween, the idea of charging older kids with a misdemeanor for trick-or-treating is problematic for several reasons.
The police, especially on Halloween, can’t be everywhere, which means many people will take the job of policing trick-or-treaters into their own hands. This is setting people of color especially up for failure — or worse. With the endless amount of white people calling police on black and brown people for doing simple, everyday things like trying to have a BBQ, many parents are likely to keep their children at home instead of sending them into the lion’s den.
Think of young victims like Tamir Rice, who was only 12 years old when he was shot and killed by police. Think of teenager Trayvon Martin, killed by a local “neighborhood watch” monster while walking home. How can people of color trust that their children out enjoying Halloween won’t end up in an altercation with police because a neighbor thought they didn’t deserve to be out trick-or-treating?
Furthermore, the age restriction will affect older-looking children, particularly those of color who are often seen as much older than they are. They’ll be stopped throughout the night, and that’s what they’ll remember about Halloween — not the joy that comes from running around as your favorite cartoon villain with a bucket full of candy, laughing with friends and siblings.
Sadly, similar to a lot of other holidays, Halloween is becoming more and more politically charged. From cultural appropriation and stereotyping (see Megyn Kelly’s blackface remarks) to how we police trick-or-treaters, it seems that many will take any opportunity there is to further divide people in the U.S. — no matter what it takes. As a society it’s time to repair these issues by working to understand cultural sensitivity, protect and advocate for kids who are more vulnerable to discrimination than others, and overall, promote a safe and happy Halloween for kids today and future generations.