This has got to STOP
There is something that has been bothering me. From time to time here on the blog we write about the slightly racist things that occur in our daily lives. As Black people, that’s just par for the course. You become accustomed to questions about hair texture. Why you, in the minds of your lighter colleagues, always seems to be getting a haircut. You endure the comments about lip size and nose shape. It’s a part of the process of being African American. The dual consciousness is what Dubois wrote so expertly on. Yet most of the things we comment on in the blog stem from a simple curiosity of our Caucasian brethren. They usually mean no harm. It isn’t a big conspiracy to subordinate you to them. Quite the contrary, the racism we encounter is often innocent ignorance. But there are exceptions. The most salient example I can think of is a certain kind of conduct that continues to rear its ugly head:
WHITE PEOPLE DRESSING IN BLACKFACE
An expert analysis of this unfortunate phenomena first requires some history:
Early 19th Century
Blackface began as a form of vaudeville entertainment. The standard procedure was for a white person to apply very dark makeup, and to personify the stereotype of the happy-go-lucky black person. The “dandified coon” as Wikipedia notes. It was actually a very popular performance art of the day, and travelled as far aways as Britain and the Netherlands. In fact, in traditional Netherlands Christmas celebrations, Zwarte Piet is still portrayed by a white person in full black makeup.
Mid 20th Century
Changing atitudes about Black people in American society led to the decline [thank God] of wildly inaccurate portrayals of oafish and affable dancin’ coons frollicking in the high cotton. The Civil Rights movement in the United States effectively ended this kind of theatre. It actually prevailed in parts of Europe until the late 70s. Perhaps it was because the terrible plight of Blacks both in the U.S. and in places like brutally racist South Africa were finally being televised across the Globe. Whatever the reason, this exploitative and silly practice fell by the wayside. Or so we thought.
Ted Danson. In blackface. The year: 1993. He was at a Friar’s Club roast honoring his one-time girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg. He delivered a monologue that included many uses of “Nigger” and, in a fashion that shocked the Globe, offended many of the African Americans present. Um, Not Cool.
Robert Downey, Jr. portraying Kirk Lazarus portraying a Black Vietnam soldier. Ok, so the movie Tropic Thunder was pretty funny. Downey, Jr. actually screened the film for the NAACP. Apparently they approved. That must mean all Black people are ok with blackface, right? NAWL!
Even more recently, several white sorority girls at the University of Southern Mississippi dressed in blackface. Apparently they were attending a “Huxtable party.” Look, this shit is not cool ya’ll. It never was and never will be. It is founded upon a tradition that marginalized and exploited an entire race of people. It made them objects of at best facile entertainment and at worst, ridicule. THIS HAS GOT TO STOP. There are plenty of creative costumes for Halloween and theme parties. Your go-to should not be rubbing shoe polish on your face and “acting black.” You say things you imagine Black folk say. You do things you imagine Black folk do. Instead of getting together with the rest of your white friends and pretending to be a part of a culture with a history that spans centuries, hows about you engage in an intelligent discussion with a Black person and learn from them. There is no excuse.
Aight, this might actually be funny.
Continue to question the World Around You.