Out-of-Town Trick-or-Treaters Spark Cultural Debate

Thousands of families across the United States will trick-or-treat tonight in neighborhoods not their own. The cultural debate surrounding "Halloween carpetbaggers" is tied into broader debates about race, class, and wealth.

Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak wrote today one of America's most interesting current cultural debates: "Halloween carpetbaggers."


"Is it okay to go trick-or-treating in another neighborhood? That’s the Halloween soul-searching we are collectively doing this year.... Let’s be honest here. A lot of this is about race and class, about the haves and the have-nots."

If you're active on social media, chances are you've seen a link to this letter answered by Salon's Dear Prudence column earlier this week. The letter writer (who, all things considered, I doubt is a real person) complains about poor families descending on his upscale neighborhood to take advantage of his "charity." As Dvorak and Prudence both note, the carpetbaggers are usually poor kids whose parents sought out a safer street, as well as less-pitiable teenagers on the hunt for as much sugar as possible. Dvorak says the stigma related to the latter should not be shared with the former:

"Imagine living in a neighborhood where it’s too dangerous to knock on a door at night, or next to neighbors who are too poor to buy a bag of candy. We can do better than have resentment about this."

In search of a compromise, it would make sense for local police to keep a keener eye on affluent neighborhoods on Halloween, just to make sure none of the strangers are there for more nefarious means than candy procurement. As long as safety is maintained, most people seem to agree that there's no harm in trick-or-treat tourism.

Of note: if this sort of debate is dampening your fun today, I recommend that for the rest of the afternoon all your Halloween hot takes come straight from The Onion. It always makes me feel better.

Did you know 1 in 5 American children will do their trick-or-treating online this year? http://t.co/K20OSbn8S9 pic.twitter.com/8cn9andmBa

— The Onion (@TheOnion) October 31, 2014

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