It’s common for Halloween costumes to cause some type of controversy, and this year is no different. Recently, an online retailer, HalloweenCostumes.com, removed a costume called “WW2 Anne Frank Girls Costume" after people showed their shock at the product. The retailer said "we would like to apologize for any offense this has caused. Due to the feedback from our customers and the public, which we take very seriously, we have elected to stop selling this costume immediately." The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect made a Facebook statement, which said “honoring Anne's legacy is at the heart of what we do. There are better ways to commemorate her memory than a Halloween costume. We are pleased that the company acted swiftly."
Photo: Daniel H. Tong on Unsplash
This got me thinking about how we honor the lives of historical figures, especially those who were victims of violence. We like to place assumptions on what that person “would have wanted us to do," with the most common example regarding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King is respected across the world, but people often use his words to justify themselves, even if their ideologies don’t align with his. To misuse his own words or to cite him without the proper research isn’t the way to honor him or to respect his work.
Anne Frank’s story is different because the world learned about her life after she died. Her words were published into a book called “The Diary of Anne Frank." However, the words you find are words written by a girl who had no idea that she would have such a large audience one day. She died in 1945, at the age of 15, but her words, her thoughts, and her emotions are still alive today. Her words are very personal, and they give us a new perspective. The best way to honor her life is to realize the power behind her life, and to never take it for granted.
Both Dr. King and Anne Frank are two historical figures that we can learn from today. Their works help us to understand the past, and also figure out how we can all be better people. It’s important that we acknowledge the difficulties they experienced, as well as the intentions they had. I think a good place to start would be to read the works that they wrote, and then practice those beliefs in our own life.