Halloween approaches, which would be nice to get to ignore this year except that there seems to be some movement to observe it here (if 'observe' is the right word--"celebrate"? "demarcate"? "endure"?).

The likelihood of having to hand out candy is at least diminished. At home, my nieghborhood is marginal enough that kids trick or treat by car generally, and each year I do fear the many implications of "tricks" if my candy is not sufficiently pleasing.

I am thinking of Halloween because one of my students from my history class told me of an idea for a Halloween costume she and a friend had, but she wanted to check with me to see if I thought it was appropriate.

They had hatched the idea of dressing like something we studied from the past for Halloween--a Klansman. Did I think it was a good idea?


A horrifying image, though neither person meant any harm. Indeed, the student I spoke with was in fact shocked to learn exactly how bad the idea was. As far as they had learned (which is up through the 1930s in the class), the Klan was some old hate organization from the distant past, as far away as any long dead thing. They had no sense at all of the resonance of Klan imagery in American culture, or of the possible impact of dressing like a Klansman. Or, it should be noted, of the fact that Klansmen are still out there.

I did not give a full history of the Klan, just its rise and fall in the 20s, and I obviously did not sufficiently stress its cockroach-like persistence as an organization and an institution. Perhaps I should screen Blood in the Face at the end of the class as we begin to cover more contemporary topics. It is bizarre that dangerous racist nuts are still around, though they most definitely are, as the most recent anti-immigrant movement makes painfully clear.

At least the students hadn't decided (in the fashion sadly familiar on a perennial basis at Deep South frats) of doing a black face costume.

I am hard pressed to think of an equivalent iconographic image from the American past with as utterly repugnant as Klan imagery. A Nazi costume might be about the only equivalent. In this light, speaking of poor judgement, it is hard not to recall Prince William dressing like a Nazi.


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