Hallowe’en As Oppression

I read the other day that our modern view of Hallowe’en was created using white suburbia as a model, and that it should be dismantled because the act of Trick Or Treating propagates racial oppression. The gentleman who wrote that had earlier mentioned that I was unqualified to opine on matters of race, as I’m one of the oppressors and couldn’t possibly understand the way he could.

I’m going to stop right here to make an observation: There are a lot of people who didn’t click the link to Read More because they figure they’ve already read the whole article, written over and over by middle-aged, neckbearded white dudes sitting in their underwear in their parent’s basements all across America, that this is just going to be more of the same, and that they can’t be bothered to read it. It’s a perfectly valid position; we’re living in an age when every idiot thinks his (it’s always a him) opinion is worth as much as any expert. Just look at OTC veterinary Ivermectin sales figures if you don’t believe me. (I figure Tucker Carlson must have stock in AdvaCare or something.) By comparison, Cliff Clavin seems a veritable genius.

The rest of you can broadly be divided into three groups: First, there are those among you who arrived with the comfortable certainty that the fellow was right, and that I am unqualified to opine; you’re here to get ammunition so you can prove me wrong. The second group knows (equally fervently, you’ll notice) that the guy’s nuts; intelligence isn’t a melanin-based attribute. The third are my loyal readers, and most of you are probably wondering just how I plan to weasel my way around all this.

I could, I suppose, take refuge in my vast store of arcane (or at least obscure) knowledge to assert that the custom of Trick-or-Treating originated from people whose skin tone was rather darker than not, that the first written account appears in the 3rd-century Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus and undoubtedly predates it. We could discuss international mumming traditions of the Middle Ages, the Scots guiseing in the 16th century, Día de los Muertos and Mischief Night, Oidhche nan Cleas and Noson Ddrygioni and Zhōng Yuán Jié. It would be a simple matter to demonstrate through simple logic that our Hallowe’en traditions long predate modern society and its ills, and were practiced rather by the lower classes than the upper.

But that would be boring, if informative. If you’re interested in learning more, there are, I daresay, a round dozen Wikipedia articles that, if they do occasionally conflict with the contents of my rather large folklore library, are nevertheless reliable enough to be going on with. Feel free to do the searches yourself; there’s a lot to it.

We could also make the argument that, whatever its origins, Hallowe’en has been transformed into a commercialized nightmare due to an evil plot by the international candy-making manufacturers; oddly enough, that’s a conspiracy theory with some meat to it (or rather, some high-glucose corn syrup). There’s a reason we no longer see caramel apples handed out at the door, much less baked goods. Given our exceedingly litigious society, that’s probably just as well.

And yet, here’s where the original argument has some degree of validity: Speaking from personal experience, a person who grew up poor doubtless had a different experience of Hallowe’en than did the typical suburbanite. There are a ton of neighborhoods where it’s dangerous to go door-to-door begging for candy; Detroit in the 80s was particularly horrible during the last part of October, but it’s just one example.

If I were to try to link all this to poverty and class rather than race, I’d be shouted down, and never mind my own experience or the memories of others I’ve spoken with. If race were a hammer, there are those who would only see nails. Then again, if class were a wrench, there are those among us who would only see nuts. The real world is complex, people; it can be both at once.

This year, I’m sad because the traditions of my childhood — particularly this one that I so rarely had a chance to engage in — are going to be observed more in their absence. It’s not the candy, or the stream of children — and certainly not the pranks — that I miss; it’s the chance to be unabashedly festive in a way that celebrates life in stark opposition to the gruesome and the macabre.

As with all experience-based sentiments, this is entirely subjective. I don’t demand that you observe Hallowe’en the way I do; it’s entirely up to you. If you want to look on my favorite holiday as a symbol of oppression, I won’t stop you.

But if you try to use that as an excuse to tear down my decorations — well, now; that’s something else entire. I won’t battle all that hard over statues to Old Hickory or Bobby Lee, but as far as I’m concerned the memory of Jack O’Lantern is sacred.


(Yes, this was written tongue-in-cheek. You’ve cleverly unraveled my design. On the other hand, it was inspired by an honest-to-goodness editorial published by a major venue by someone with whom I regularly interact, and who shows every sign of being reasonably intelligent. -Editor)

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Post-post note:
My opinion is always valid. So is yours. If you disagree with me, that’s great; we should discuss it. Maybe I’ll learn something; maybe you will. Only one thing’s certain: If we never talk about it, neither one of us will learn a single damned thing.

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