Party City is pulling Confederate-themed Halloween costumes after a mother and her two Black children discovered them in a Virginia store.
On Sunday, Arlington mom Caroline Brasler was shopping at the Bailey's Crossroads location with her two Black daughters, ages 10 and 12, when they found two costumes branded with Confederate symbols — one depicted a “Confederate Officer” and the other General Robert E. Lee.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865), 11 pro-slavery Southern states succeeded from the North and formed The Confederate States of America, flying their own red-white-and-blue flags such as “Stars and Bars” and the “Southern Cross.” Although the South lost the Civil War, people today disagree on whether Confederate imagery are slavery symbols or deserving of tributes to American history. A January YouGov poll found that 41 percent of Americans considered the Confederate flag representative of racism while 34 percent view it as “heritage.”
However this summer, the Black Lives Matter movement led to change: Protests toppled Confederate statues in Florida and Indianapolis, a school in Virginia dropped “Robert E. Lee” from its names, the Marine Corps and U.S. Navy banned Confederate images and in July, Mississippi agreed to omit the symbol from its state flag.
"The Confederate flag to me is a symbol of racism,” Brasler told WUSA9. “To have that out there for a child to wear on Halloween sends so many horrible messages.”
Yahoo Life could not immediately reach Brasler for comment. A Party City spokesperson tells Yahoo Life, “... We do not tolerate racism or hatred of any kind, and we stand together in solidarity with our diverse colleagues, customers and communities” and that none of its costumes are meant to offend.
“The costume in question was sold at a franchise location, and is not produced or sold in any Party City corporate owned stores,” read the statement. “We have reached out to our franchisees and other partners to remove it from all retail locations ASAP. We know that as a company, we can and must do better, and we’re taking immediate action...”
According to Tyler D. Parry, an assistant professor of African American and African diaspora studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the normalization of Confederate imagery reflects a historical narrative from the white perspective, particularly that of slaveholders. “It explains why most people know the names of Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson but not of Black individuals who fought for their own freedom and helped dismantle slavery,” he tells Yahoo Life.
Parry says that U.S. history has sanitized slavery, with the 1865 presidential pardons of those who succeeded from the United States and even films like 1939’s Gone With the Wind (told from the perspective of Scarlett O’Hara, the daughter of a plantation owner). “Although Robert E. Lee was on the wrong side of history, he’s depicted in a noble way,” he says.
He adds that the Party City costumes are why college marketing courses should consider hiring employees with a background in African-American studies. “If you don’t have a reference point for history or problematic symbols,” says Parry, “you might approve an idea like this in a board meeting.”
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