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Is It Safe for Black Kids to Go Trick-or-Treating?

5 black parents weigh in on the holiday and their kids

Published on: October 20, 2017

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I wonder what conversations I'll have with my son when he's old enough to trick or treat. I often ask myself, “What age will he become a threat?” How can I balance giving him the freedom he deserves with protecting him from danger? Thinking about these things makes me uncomfortable, and he isn't even 2 years old.

Halloween means different things to different people. Those feelings range from "my favorite holiday" to "I'm gonna pretend it doesn't exist." Thankfully, one area we're all on the same page is safety. We want our children to have the best time we can provide and be sure they make it home without harm. For anxiety-prone Black parents like myself, Halloween can be a cause of discomfort. The perception that Black children are seen as older and more threatening than other children is troubling and may be a trigger for negative feelings.

I was curious to know how other Black parents felt about Halloween participation. So I gathered four Black mothers and asked their feelings on Halloween. `

“My fear of celebrating Halloween has been a thing before I was a mother. Now that I am, especially to Black sons, it’s at an all-time high. I feel my sons are seen as a threat around age 6–7 because they are starting to get taller. I hate the idea of trick-or-treating and I try to advocate that we just buy him candy and skip the door-to-door, but I never win. My husband is Black and he takes him because I refuse; talk about anxiety level unchartable. All I can do is hope that I never get a call saying the unthinkable happened or one day they listen and cease to partake traditionally.” — Alex White

“Last night, my son asked to use the car to attend a haunted house in another part of town. It made me nervous to consider, but I wanted him to have the chance the have fun with his friends. I didn’t want want to limit him, but with all of the things that are happening, I worry about him. It made me feel better than he wasn’t somewhere wearing a mask or costume but as a tall Black teenager, I don’t want anyone to see him as a threat.” — Janice Thomas

“My own anxiety as a parent does not rise around Halloween celebrations and participating in things like trick-or-treating or parties. Despite the rise of police brutality, because everyone is out, some of whom will be up to mischief, I feel that everyone (police and neighbors alike) are actually more relaxed. People expect to see new faces in their neighborhood. People are expecting loud music and sounds of joy.

Because there will be people out causing trouble, cops are less trigger-happy and more relaxed because they expect to be called. So I don't worry about my children during those times. Maybe I'm spoiled because I do live in a predominantly Black urban environment and although I do not, in general, trust the establishment of the justice system and do firmly believe it needs a great deal of investigation and oversight, when it comes to this particular holiday and the interaction of children I think that the mass celebration actually serves to keep our children safer.” — Donyae Cole

“My sons lost interest trick-or-treating in their early to mid teen years. As my children have gotten older, I have had to worry less about issues with trick-or-treating and more about haunted house environments. I have concern for them being around teens who use illegal substances.” — Jennifer Roland

I have no idea how I will respond when my son is a young man instead of a toddler looking to celebrate Halloween. Speaking with these mothers showed me there are varying opinions surrounding Halloween. Interestingly, these concerns vary by age.

I'm comforted knowing that many parents have found ways for their children to participate without limiting their children's fun. As an anxiety-prone individual, I can always benefit from perspectives for people from different backgrounds. In the meantime, I’ll prepare to celebrate my second Halloween with my precious gift.

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