We’ve all seen Halloween costumes that are a bit close to the knuckle, ones that will earn some pointedly raised eyebrows and a few whispers. But this year the controversy has reached a new high (or rather, low).

Amber Langford and Annie Collinge- two students from the University of Chester- dressed up as the Twin Towers, complete with a miniature plane and cardboard caricatures of people falling to their deaths. They entered a Fancy Dress Competition held at ‘Rosies’ nightclub in Chester. However, rather than being condemned for wearing outfits mocking one of the world’s most devastating terrorist attacks, they won the ‘Best Dressed’ cash prize of £150. However, not everyone saw the funny side.

George Borsberry was at the party and tried to make a complaint to ‘Rosies.’: “I was completely outraged. We asked to see the manager to complain and were turned down due to him being ‘too busy’ to see us. After waiting two and a half hours to see the person who decided this dreadful winner, all we got was, ‘Sorry, but it was a good costume.’He then had the audacity to say there were people in other disgusting costumes such as Jimmy Savile, as if to justify that it was alright to dress like that.”

The students responsible for this fury responded by saying, “We never meant to be offensive, but we apologise if any offence was caused. The idea was to depict a modern-day horror that happened in our lifetime and was not intended as a joke.” Their contradictory statement is similar to misbehaving children grudgingly whining, ‘Sorry, but…’ And just as meaningful.

One would like to believe that this shocking incident was a ‘one-off’ and that nothing of the kind would ever happen again.

Yet a similar scenario took place during a Halloween party organised by the University of London’s Union. An unidentified male student who painted his face with black paint and wore red ‘devil horns’, won a bottle of wine for his costume and was cheered by other students.

An incredulous Maham Hashmi-Khan- the Union’s Black Student Officer- said: “Going with a face blacked-up has racist connotations, there is no other way to put it. If someone came in a Nazi costume, they would have been stopped. If someone came in stark naked they wouldn’t have been allowed in.” She added, “What kind of institution are we running?”

The use of ‘black face’ calls back uncomfortable allusions to past racism such as the BBC’s The Black and White Minstrel Show which ran in the 60’s, where performers would dress in ‘black face.’ But, surely this blatant ignorance belongs in the past and not in this society?

London Metropolitan student Colin Cortbus, who attended the union-run party, expressed an equivalent view: “Such dress is utterly unacceptable in the 21st century; it creates a culture of racial discrimination and makes black students feel intimidated.”

The concept of dressing up in the most controversial way possible is unfortunately not a foreign one. So-called ‘Bad Taste’ parties have been taking place for years. One only has to search the internet to find people discussing their explicitly offensive and disgusting costumes. Only last year, a rugby club was banned from the University of East Anglia after they hosted a ‘Bad Taste’ party, with two attendees dressed as a member of the Klu Klux Klan and Baby P.

As expected, all universities have condemned the parties and costumes. The University of London’s Union is currently being investigated, as well as ‘Rosies’ nightclub. The University of Chester and Chester Students’ Union also labelled the ‘Twin Towers’ costumes as “appalling.”

While these rightly aghast reactions should be voiced, they should not have needed to be heard. The real issue here is why these insensitive, horrific costumes were ever rewarded in the first place. These cases are an unsettling reminder to the fact that such prejudices and obvious disregard for what is appropriate and what is quite obviously the opposite still exist today. It seems that some members of our society sadly need more education on these matters. Hopefully, the uproar surrounding these costumes will prevent other similar cases from taking place at all.

[Jenna Burns]

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