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 It seems to have been replaced by some sort of odd ritual that invests deep meaning in costumery and overly-practiced politeness.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.