The National Pulse

The “PC Police” Are Back This Year — And No Halloween Costume Is Safe

This article is part of a series focusing on Lens of Liberty, a project of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation.

In her Liberty Minute titled “Pull Up or Pay Up,” Helen Krieble criticized school boards and city councils which have taken their power to the extreme by even mandating what people are and are not allowed to wear:

Lots of schools have adopted rules against wearing low pants and some businesses have barred admittance to young people wearing their pants too low. Some say it’s old fashioned to care about proper attire and public decorum, though I think what the low riders mostly reveal is their bad taste. But are they criminals?

In Orlando, Florida, they might be. The city council there has adopted an ordinance making it a crime to wear pants two inches below the natural waist. Guilty perpetrators can be fined $500 or go to jail for six months! I bet if that city council looked through the lens of liberty, it might expose many problems more important than how high people wear their pants. Where does this end? Can government make us all wear only the clothes they approve?

This is especially pertinent since the news has been filled with similar stories recently. With October 31 approaching in less than a week, the “PC police” have been out in full force telling trick-or-treaters what costumes they can and cannot wear. Striving for the impossible, they are desperately trying ensure that no one anywhere will be offended by anyone else’s costume this Halloween. Although their criteria are just “guidelines” rather than the laws which Krieble refers to, they are still excellent examples of people’s freedom being taken out from under them.

Over the past few weeks, countless instances of such politically correct guidelines for costumes have been reported, in particular on government-run college campuses. The guidelines particularly target white students, telling them that they need to be especially careful when selecting a costume.

For example, an Ohio State University magazine included an acceptable costume flow-chart which specifically asks whether or not the student is white before making its judgement as to if he or she can wear “traditional head wear from other cultures” or can go as Prince. White students are then told that they need to “try a new costume idea,” while their non-white peers are given the go ahead to wear any such costumes. It doesn’t matter if you admire Pocahontas or if your favorite singer was Prince. As long as your skin is white, you are told not to dress up as them.

The University of Utah’s Student Affairs Diversity Council also laid out costume guidelines in their October letter:

As you get ready for Halloween here are some tips you can put into practice. Think to yourself: ‘Does the actual name on the costume packaging say “tribal”, or “traditional”? Does the costume include race related hair or accessories (dreads/ locs, afros, cornrows, a headdress)? Does the costume play into racial stereotypes? Does this costume represent a culture that is not my own? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should rethink the costume and try again.

The Office of Housing and Residence Life at Northern Arizona University has published similar guidelines and hung posters around campus showing students what type of costumes it believes are offensive and should not be worn. Among the forbidden costumes are a Pocahontas dress, a Chinese man outfit, a sombrero, and a black curly wig. The bottom line on the posters is: “Could choosing to wear this costume be hurtful or offensive to others?”

The PC police cannot possibly believe they can protect everyone from being offended, however. In fact, their own guidelines prove they are only concerned about costumes which offend certain groups of people. For example, Ohio State’s flow-chart encourages students to dress as a “sexy construction worker” or wear costumes which “make fun of Donald Trump.” The politically correct costume dictators clearly don’t care about the feelings of people who would be hurt by those types of costumes.

Whether it is a city imprisoning citizens for wearing their pants too low or college administrators telling students that they cannot wear sombreros, these restrictions have gone too far. The rule-makers would do well to look through the lens of liberty, as Krieble would say, and reevaluate their positions.

Terry Schilling

Terry Schilling is executive director of the American Principles Project.