In a flashback to political correctness, Target recently caved in to pressure and removed the illegal alien costume from its stores. Apparently some other costume shops did so as well. The costume consists of an alien (of the sci-fi sort) mask, an orange jumpsuit and (oddly enough) a green card.
On one hand, it does make some sense that certain folks would be offended by this costume. After all, it can be seen as a slight against human illegal aliens. Folks who see racism in all things will also no doubt see it as a statement that illegal aliens are inferior beings.
On the other hand, the costume does not seem to be hateful or racist in nature. This sort of illegal alien joke has been around for a rather long time and it is generally used without any malice or racism. For example, Nick Pollotta and Phil Foglio wrote a hilarious sci-fi book called Illegal Aliens back in 1989. The book cannot, in any way, be seen as attacking human illegal aliens or as racist. If you doubt this, read it. Naturally, it could be claimed that the title itself is a vehicle of hate-but I think that the burden of proof is clearly on those who make this claim. After all, as noted above, the book itself seems to be free of hate and racism.
Of course, there are cases in which illegal alien jokes do come with some racism and hatred attached. For example, I vaguely recall seeing a cartoon showing Aliens (from the Alien movie) dressed up in Mexican garb picking crops. While this was intended to be funny, it could also be seen as vaguely racist. Naturally, there are no doubt some attempts at humor in this vein that are overtly racist and hateful.
In the case of the costume, the key question is whether it falls into the mere joke category or into a more sinister category. My view is that since the mask is a stock “gray” alien and not a distorted “space Mexican” sort of thing, then it seems most reasonable to take it as a mere joke. Now, if the alien was a caricature of a Hispanic person, then the charge of racism would certainly stick.
It could be objected that this costume intentionally or unintentionally depicts human illegal aliens as non-humans and, as such, is a racist attack on such people.
My response is that while such an interpretation is possible, it seems to be quite a leap in the case of the specific costume in question. The specific costume seems to be merely a joke-a play on the ambiguity of “alien” and not a vehicle for racism. Once more, I think that the burden of proof rests on those who see such racism in this costume.