This plea comes to us on behalf of Black Bill Cubbins, a native pirate and chair of the American branch of the Pirate, Buccaneer, Corsair, Privateer, and Other Plunderers Anti-Defamation League (PBCPOPADL).
-The Editors

Pirates come from a number of diverse cultural and historical backgrounds, from corsairs to buccaneers to privateers to today’s modern pirates-on-the-go from Somalia or Malacca. Homogenizing this piratical diversity into the stereotypical and misleading “Captain Hook” mold denies, minimizes, disenfranchises, and other-izes pirates past, present, and future.

The stereotypical accoutrements of these misleading and insulting costumes also perpetuate negative stereotypes about pirates. Contrary to the popular Western image of pirates with cutlass and pistol, most pirates preferred to take plunder through nonviolent negotiation and treated prisoners well. The image of the tyrannical pirate captain embraced by ignorant and divisive Halloween revelers is also a hurtful fabrication: pirate captains were typically elected by the consent of the captained, making pirate ships one of the few true democracies in the world at the time.

Perhaps most inaccurate and offensive is the concept of “pirate speak” glorified in Hollywood and by divisive and disenfranchising holidays like “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” This patois, completely unlike the speech of any known pirate (who more often than not would not even converse in English) hypersexualizes and commodifies the image of the drunken and lustful pirate sailor and can result in ignorant violence against actual practicing pirates. And this doesn’t even touch on the proud tradition of lady pirates, who dressed modestly and were often mistaken for men–a far cry from the lewd and revealing “costumes” currently in vogue.

As a pirate, American, and father, I urge this year’s trick-or-treaters and their parents to support a progressive and inclusive vision of the holiday by shunning any and all pirate-themed “costumes.” Be a hobo, be a ninja, be an astronaut, but don’t be a pirate. Pirate costumes plunder us all of our dignity.

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