Walmart may be the first big box retailer of the year to come under fire for a kid's Halloween costume sold on their official website. Just a few days ago, your child could have dressed up as a "Little Amigo" for the rock-bottom price of $13. The costume depicted a little boy wearing a fringed shirt, a mustache and a sombrero.
After Walmart was called out for selling the offensive costume online — which played into lowbrow Mexican stereotypes and screamed cultural appropriation — "Little Amigo" was promptly removed. Walmart issued an apology, saying they never intended to offend. Walmart also stated that the costume violated store policy that prohibits the sale of "products that either portray, glorify or promote in an insensitive way… derogatory stereotyping based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or nationality."
Walmart have washed their hands of this by issuing their big apology and playing the blame game. Apparently, as a Walmart representative told Refinery 29, the racist costume was sold by a third-party retailer on the store's site. So, Walmart wants us all to know that they didn't make the costume — someone else did. But Walmart did sell it, and this isn't the first Halloween that a major retailer has released a grossly inappropriate kid's costume to the public.
In 2013, Walmart got busted for selling a "sexy" costume marketed to toddler girls, called the Naughty Leopard. (Yes, you read that right.) That same year, Pottery Barn was forced to nix their stereotypical Asian costumes marketed to kids when Asian Americans Advancing Justice pointed out, "We're a culture, not a costume." In 2014, a Canadian mom made headlines after exposing the unbelievable amount of sexualized costumes marketed to girls ages 4 to 6 at Value Village. The Native American community has been speaking out against stereotypical "Indian" costumes for years.
Yet Walmart still have a $55 kid's Jewish Rabbi costume posted on their website, despite several customer reviews calling it "offensive."
With a huge selection of inappropriate costumes to choose from, these big retailers are making it almost impossible for parents to enjoy some good, clean Halloween fun with their kids. Instead of working with parents to provide young and impressionable kids with straightforward costumes, retailers who choose to sell offensive costumes from third-party manufacturers are giving parents one more job to do on Halloween. Now, we don't just have to worry about safety while trick-or-treating. We have to worry that our kids will be traipsing around the neighborhood in a sexually or racially charged costume that is guaranteed to offend.
Since it doesn't look like retailers will be picking up the slack anytime soon, this leaves us with two options: First, make like every other mom who has gone viral after finding an offensive costume on the racks and speak up. The more parents that voice their complaints on social media, the more retailers will listen and take accountability for the costumes they sell on their websites. At least, that's the hope.
Second, use this golden opportunity to talk with your kids about their costume choices, especially when they may gravitate toward something that's inappropriate. This Halloween may be the year that you get to pull out the big guns and teach your children about topics like racial inequality, cultural appropriation and social awareness. Even young children can understand that it's not OK to disrespect a different culture by using their heritage as a costume.
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