Halloween in Mayberry

Janet Taylor
2 min readNov 2, 2016

I live in a suburb of San Francisco. My town is safe and cozy. It’s known as a great place to raise a kid. Kids frequently walk or bike to school here. I’ve heard locals refer to it as “Mayberry-By-The-Sea.”

It’s also mostly white. It borders Oakland, specifically an historically Black area of Oakland.

This morning, on my otherwise delightful ferry commute into San Francisco, I overheard a group of white people from my town talking about last night’s Halloween adventures.

They were discussing how they felt about a bunch of kids who “weren’t from the neighborhood” trick-or-treating their houses on Halloween. Ultimately, they all decided something like this: “I’m okay with it, as long as they behave themselves.”

I was appalled. This was obviously coded racism at its most pernicious. Here’s what I should have said:

How did you know these kids weren’t from your neighborhood? Are you really so involved with the community that you know every kid?

I’m ashamed to say this: I said nothing. I heard casual, coded racism drift by me on the otherwise idyllic ferry ride across the Bay, and I said not a word.

What is wrong with me, I wondered. But I didn’t know these people. I knew that if I’d said something, even as a white person, I would have been seen as overly aggressive; they would have countered with whatever defense racists are using these days, and probably would have believed it.

I mean, I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were talking about a different, specific neighborhood. Maybe they truly were very active in the neighborhood, and most of the kids who trick-or-treated their house were truly kids they knew.

But let’s be real: they were most likely talking about Black children. And they probably had no idea whether these kids were or were not “from the neighborhood;” they just saw Black faces, dressed as dragons or fairies or Pokemon or whatever, asking to participate in a time-honored ritual where kids go around and beg for candy, and thought: “well, okay, as long as they behave.”

As if Black children would behave any differently from white children going door-to-door asking for candy.

I MEAN, IT’S CANDY. What child doesn’t go nuts over candy?

Halloween is supposed to be the weirdest night of the year. If you welcome trick-or-treaters “as long as they behave,” you are not participating in the spirit of Halloween.

And also, you’re probably a racist. Fix it.



Janet Taylor

Design leader. Recovering software engineer. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. She/her pronouns.