My vibrant Halloween

There’s lots of good things about where I live. One of my favorites is Halloween.

My zip code is about 50% black and 50% white. The zip code immediately to the west is about 80% white and 20% black, and the zip code immediately to the east is about 80% black and 20% white. The whites are generally very well off. The blacks are generally much less well off (income statistics by race in DC make for interesting reading).

The result is this odd dichotomy of wealthy whites who get really into Halloween and poor blacks who seem to be pretty excited that “whitey is giving out free food” (that’s actually a quote that I heard someone shout last year).

On Halloween, about 20% of the revelers are young white children (mostly between 2 and 5 years old, by the time the white kids are older, most of their parents have moved out of the neighborhood – it’s the school, of course) in incredibly elaborate costumes (often the whole family has themed costumes) who are very well-coached on the trick-or-treating process. Honestly, I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for some of these kids. The fun is missing. It seems to have been replaced by some sort of odd ritual that invests deep meaning in costumery and overly-practiced politeness. Perhaps Halloween helicopter-parent style just gets on my nerves.

The other 80% of trick-or-treaters are black. Even though it should be more likely 50/50 black and white, there’s a much larger proportion of black trick-or-treaters because many blacks come in from the surrounding areas in which trick-or-treating would be . . . less fun. I’ve given candy to black trick-or-treaters who are as young as several months old and as old as 65ish. The cultural norms that stop white adults from demanding candy while their children trick-or-treat or from simply going trick-or-treating by themselves (with or without a costume) apparently don’t apply in this black community. A surprising number of black (almost always female) parents ask for candy for their infants as well. Hopefully they eat it themselves.

All sorts of other hilarities ensue every year. This year, a man from the neighborhood left his front door for a few minutes to put his kid to bed, and a family of trick-or-treaters stole his $500 stroller from his yard. The robbers were quickly busted by the police, since they simply continued trick-or-treating at the nearby houses. There’s no family like the family that steals together. I guess if they’re giving out candy, it’s reasonable to assume they’re giving away all sorts of stuff. This particular thieving family was a mother and a few young children.

I try to invite people over to experience this spectacle with me every year. Watching their reactions is great. My favorite moment is the look on the visitor’s face the first time a middle-aged lady without a costume on comes to the door demanding (there’s never a please or a thank you) candy. The look always conveys a sense of horror followed quickly by a sense of concern since what they’ve just witnessed can never be discussed.

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14 Responses to My vibrant Halloween

  1. The look always conveys a sense of horror followed quickly by a sense of concern since what they’ve just witnessed can never be discussed.

    I would love to be a fly on the wall when a male to female transsexual in the ladies rest room waves his little man at a progressive feminist.

  2. isamu says:

    Do you give the middle-aged candy?

    • Foseti says:

      Yes. A few of my neighbors resist, but I feel like a mini-candy bar isn’t worth any sort of confrontation regardless of how strange it is to be giving a tiny candy bar to someone twice my age.

  3. bossgatto says:

    Here in the Tampa suburbs, our Halloween features hundreds of Mexicans who drive from their neighborhood over to our neighborhood to trick or treat. The best part is listening to people complain about it the next day. Very few of them use the word “Mexican” or “Hispanic” because that draws attention to the fact that they noticed their race. They just describe them as “the people who drive over here to trick or treat.” Another funny part about it is that many of these same complainers are active participants in the neighborhood’s Thanksgiving food drive and other charity events. They like to give to the less fortunate, but preferably from a distance.

  4. CyniCAl says:

    You know what a black kid gets for Christmas? Your bike!

  5. Bruce says:

    Guilty. The wife makes our children elaborate, themed costumes. One year they were Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion, etc. This year we had two ninjas, two cats (from the Erin Hunter books), a very specific type of dragon from the Dragonology books and Tigger.

  6. Alex J. says:

    I live in the white stripe to the right of the N-S border south of downtown in this map. It’s like the 80/20 neighborhood to your west, except here it’s more like 98/2 and to the east it’s more like 0/100. Halloween here is like what you described, but less extreme in magnitude, while more segregated by time.

    The neighborhood white kids do their trick or treating for about 45 minutes. Here, only the kids dress up, and at least for the younger ones, it’s mostly about appreciating the cuteness of the kids rather than the elaborateness of the costumes. (Not an overabundance of disposable income here, because you have to save up for private school, or be Catholic.)

    Then you get the black families for about an hour. Mostly little kids in cheap costumes. These are the families who make the biggest deal about going through the formalities. (No need to be formal with the locals, as we all know each other.) I don’t have a problem with this group trick or treating in my neighborhood, because of the co-incidence of the two maps in that link above.

    Then, for a period of time which depends greatly upon the weather, you get a thin trickle of older, somewhat surly, uncostumed black teenagers. Also, not really a big deal, because at this point we’re just trying to get rid of the dregs of our candy anyway.

    I’ve never seen an adult asking for candy. It’s pretty cheap, it seams easier to just go out and buy it.

  7. josh says:

    “Honestly, I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for some of these kids. The fun is missing. It seems to have been replaced by some sort of odd ritual that invests deep meaning in costumery and overly-practiced politeness. Perhaps Halloween helicopter-parent style just gets on my nerves.”

    Have you ever seen the movie, Meet Me in St. Louis. I don’t know if you have daughters, but my 3 year old loves it.

    Anyway:

    Little Hellions.

    Anyway, the house was torn down in 1994 after being left to nature for a number of years, but that neighborhood still exists. Asking price for one of the beautiful Victorians pictured in the film, $24,000. No I didn’t forget a zero.

    http://hookedonhouses.net/2009/12/13/meet-me-in-st-louis-the-victorian-on-kensington-ave/

    USA! Progress!

  8. ve says:

    I just moved from a neighborhood like yours in a different city because my older daughter started school. Last year, at 9:45 a group of 6-7 teenagers accompanied by a middle-aged woman came to the door and said “we’re going to be your last group, so you can just give us all your candy.” When I declined, the woman said, “then how about some sodas? Can we at least get some drinks?”

  9. Alex J. says:

    Clearly the whites in our host’s neighborhood are engaged in a racist conspiracy to afflict the neighboring black adults with type II diabetes.

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