A group of students from Ohio University has drawn national attention for a poster campaign denouncing what they see as racist Halloween costumes.
Each poster in the series shows an Ohio University student of a different ethnicity holding a photograph of an offensive costume. An Asian girl holds an image of someone dressed up as a geisha. A Mexican boy holds a photo of someone in a sombrero, colorful poncho and exaggerated mustache riding a stuffed donkey.
Other images show a terrorist costume, a Native American costume and a gangster.
Each poster has two sentences on it: “We’re a culture, not a costume.” And “This is not who I am, and this is not okay.”
The posters were created by a 10-student group called STARS, Students Teaching Against Racism. The group’s president is Sarah Williams, 24, a senior majoring in political science. She told ABCNews.com she has been shocked by the amount of attention the posters have garnered, but is happy that they have started a national conversation.
“We wanted to highlight these offensive costumes because we’ve all seen them,” Williams said. “We just wanted to say, ‘Hey, this is not cool. This is offensive and this shouldn’t be taken lightly.’ It’s offending a culture and people should be aware.”
Ohio University is well-known among universities and colleges for its famously wild Halloween parties so Williams said it seemed to be the perfect place to spread an important message.
“We strive to facilitate a discussion about discipline and racism and educate people and these posters have clearly done this,” Williams said. “A lot of people feel racism is dead and it’s not relevant anymore, but that’s not the case.”
The students created the posters on their own, under the direction of STARS event coordinator Taylor See, and did not show them to the university until Friday.
Williams works in the Division of Student Affairs office and showed them to Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi on Friday to see if the school could help them with funding to print and distribute the posters.
“We were immediately receptive,” Lombardi told ABCNews.com. “We thought they were great, well done and professional. We immediately agreed to fund them.”
Williams said the response to the posters has been mainly positive, but said some have criticized her group and called them too sensitive. She tells naysayers that the 50,000 people who have so far visited her Tumblr account can’t be wrong.
“We know we can’t hit everybody and not everybody is going to agree with it,” Williams said. “But if we can change a few people or make a few people think, then that’s awesome.”
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