Halloween parade ‘marginalizes students of color:' Was Seattle school right to cancel?
- On October 13, 2021, Seattle’s Benjamin Franklin Day School announced the cancelation of their annual Halloween “Pumpkin parade” for their elementary students, saying, “Historically, the Pumpkin Parade marginalizes students of color who do not celebrate the holiday. Specifically, these students have requested to be isolated on campus while the event took place.”
- 2020-2021 demographic data of B. F. Day School reveals about 63% of students are White, nearly 8% are of Hispanic or Latino descent, 7% are Asian, 6% are Black, and 16% are of mixed race.
- Halloween is traced back to the ancient Celtic harvest celebration Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), a ritual created to mark the end of summer and beginning of winter. Also believed to be an overlap between the spiritual and physical world, children and adults would dress up in costumes, play games, and tell fortunes.
- In 2019, an estimated 172 million Americans celebrated Halloween, spending $8.8 billion on Halloween-related retail.
For some students, a Halloween parade may be distracting and keep them from focusing on their schoolwork. Bright, colorful costumes and noisy parade activities take away students' attention from the teacher and the day's lesson. Additionally, some kids may be upset or overstimulated by the Halloween costumes and activities, making school a negative experience. School is meant for studying and learning, not having parades. Of course, there are always traditional Halloween activities, such as trick-or-treating, for students to participate in outside of school.
Some students may not be able to afford to participate in the 'Pumpkin Parade' for a variety of financial, religious, and other reasons, and they will be excluded from the day's events. Halloween is a notoriously expensive holiday, from buying candy to costumes. Marginalized communities of color statistically earn less than white families, meaning families of color may be less likely to be able to afford the extra spending that comes with Halloween. This could make some children feel bad, lead to bullying, and cause unnecessary family disputes over financial situations. Faculty are supposed to be aware of conflicts that could arise from things like this and act accordingly. Thankfully, the school recognized that canceling the Halloween parade would eliminate those risks.
The decision to cancel the 'Pumpkin Parade' was not made hastily. It took five years of discussion and deliberation for the Benjamin Franklin Day Elementary School's Race and Equity Team to decide. Backlash is not warranted when addressing inequity in our country, especially when it concerns the wellbeing of children. It's clear that a lot of thought went into the decision and that the school has the best interest of the students, primarily those of color, in mind.
America has always prided itself on being the great melting pot made up of multiple cultures coming together to form a rich multicultural tapestry where we all learn from and share each other's traditions. Just because some people don't celebrate Halloween doesn't mean it is hurtful for other people to celebrate it. Holidays that are new to a person can still be a great opportunity to learn about other cultures and beliefs and foster a better appreciation among people. Benjamin Franklin Day School is not the first to cancel Halloween, but canceling a cultural event because a few students of another culture are not participating seems to promote a message of intolerance rather than an acceptance of other cultures.
In Seattle, no child of any background was being forced to participate; the Halloween activities were optional for all students and families. Canceling any activity simply because someone or some group might not participate in it will leave no activities left to celebrate. Latinx Heritage Month, Filipino History Month, and Thanksgiving are certainly not celebrated by everyone in the US, but they are still on the school calendar.
Also, parents were not consulted on the move to cancel the Halloween parade or were asked for their input. B. F. Day School determined that some children did not want to or were not going to participate and therefore canceled the event for everyone. Now parents must explain to their children that because some people aren't having fun, nobody can. If Seattle can devote a whole week to BLM, they can spend a day on Halloween.