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Blackface Is ALWAYS Offensive—When Will People Learn?

Posted by on Oct. 30, 2013 at 10:51 AM
  • 9 Replies

Blackface Is ALWAYS Offensive—When Will People Learn?

by Janelle Harris

Black faceThe thing about living in a country that celebrates and prides itself in being a multicultural melting pot is that society in general doesn’t get to dictate what should and shouldn’t be insulting to the smaller groups of people that make up the whole.

We can’t tell gay folks to let the arbitrary use of the word “faggot” roll off them.

We can’t tell Jewish people that they really shouldn’t be insulted by “shyster.”

So, in that vein, we can’t explain away blackface and tell African-Americans that it’s really not all that offensive.

Julianne Hough is the latest celeb to get caught up in public fallout from a failed Halloween costume. She should know better. There have been more than enough examples set and fingers wagged before to derail her bad decision-making and the PR nightmare she’s in now. 

If you never have to deal expressly with race, you don’t understand what it is to be judged, criticized or vilified based solely on how you look and the behaviors other people associate with the color of your skin. That’s called white privilege. Simply put, the nuances and challenges around race aren’t part of your day-to-day reality. You don’t live them because you don’t have to, simply because that’s your birthright. That’s no one’s fault. It just is. Take that one up with the great people designer in the sky.

However, some white folks get it just because they’re informed, maybe through a close relationship with a person of color, maybe just because they’re astute and aware of how the world operates. But the bulk of the reaction, on this site and so many others, is that blackface is just not that serious. But oh, dear friends, it is.

What’s interesting here is that, as women, we’ve all experienced some level of sexism or, at the very least, disrespect simply because we ARE women. We find fault in it. We gripe about it. We pen big, long diatribes calling it out for its unfairness and put its proverbial head on a pike. So why it’s so difficult to extend that outrage to matters of race is baffling. The basest of explanations is that it’s an inconvenience to be politically correct all the time. What’s a little giggle at a white dude dressed up like Trayvon Martin or a white woman decked out like an inmate or a group of kids chained and shackled like slaves?
 
Answer: it makes a mockery of those people. All of them. Not just them, but the stories behind them. Not just them and the stories behind them, but the individual and communal suffering that resulted from their experiences. Just like putting on a headdress and yodeling like a maniac is a dis to Native Americans. Just like dousing your skin with white powder and donning a cheesy geisha costume will inevitably rub a Japanese woman the wrong way.

If I was big on Halloween—I haven’t dressed up since high school—I’d steer clear of the racial and ethnic get-ups. Just because painting your skin as a person of another color is just not a good idea. Especially for a celebrity.

Do a Google image search of ‘blackface, Halloween’ and your eyes will be assaulted with pics of made-up pimps, inmates, rappers, slaves and straight up sambos. Lots of them. Ain’t nobody dressing in blackface to be, say, Disney’s Princess Tiana. Every incident is designed to ridicule, belittle and devalue.

Apparently the real thrill behind Halloween, since it doesn’t come with a day off of work or a ritualistic exchanging of gifts, is that it allows the people who celebrate it to throw inhibition to the wind. That means folks who barely gave a damn about tolerance and multiculturalism are given carte blanche to be just as ignorant as they wanna be, if only for one night, and chalk their behavior up to just having some fun.

Memo to Julianne or anyone else who gets caught in blackface and wants to issue a public apology to save their reputation or their job or their credibility with their Black fans: Save that. Blackface isn’t some accidental insult. Many steps have to be ticked off the to-do list before the final look is achieved and if good conscience doesn’t pop up anywhere in the process—while you’re picking up paint at the store, while you’re applying it in the mirror, while you’re posing your foolish self with your foolish friends for social media photo shoot—your day-after apologies don’t move me. You knew better, even if you didn’t do better.

Where do you draw the line between what’s racially offensive and what’s just good-natured jokes?

by on Oct. 30, 2013 at 10:51 AM
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Replies (1-9):
Anonymous
by Anonymous on Oct. 30, 2013 at 11:04 AM
When someone black paints a white face somehow that isn't offensive though.
nurse1997
by Silver Member on Oct. 30, 2013 at 11:47 AM

People are stupid and are always starting  trouble this girls costume was fine it was for halloween  !

Anonymous
by Anonymous on Oct. 30, 2013 at 3:56 PM

They will never get it because they don't deal with any of the issues that come with being another race.  It is a funny joke for Halloween because that is all they see it is.  They don't see how any of this would be offensive at all to people of other cultures.  Why would they? You can't truly be offended by something you never had to deal with.

It doesn't matter if it is blackface, whiteface, asianface, etc.  There are just somethings that should not be done by anyone.   Heck, it would be as tasteless as someone dressing up as a "single mom" and making all single mothers look terrible.  Many single mothers who happen to be able to take their kids out would be offended by it.


marchantmom06
by Bronze Member on Oct. 30, 2013 at 4:04 PM
Umm wait, so now it's racist for white people to paint their faces black??? That's like saying black people are mocking whites when they dye their hair blond or red..... Get the fuck over it already. Enough is enough.
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Anonymous
by Anonymous on Oct. 30, 2013 at 6:59 PM
1 mom liked this

There are too many over sensitive idiots out there.

People get offended if a little girl dresses in fringed pants with braided hair, feathers and face paint because it offends Natives.

People get offended if a white person paints their whole face black to be scary or to be a black person (celebrity, movie character or anything else).

People get offended if people dress up as Nuns or Priests or the Vatican.

People need to get the fuck over it. A costume is pretend and even if it does offend someone, who cares? Leave it alone and move on. Be the adult.

Momofmenagerie
by on Oct. 30, 2013 at 7:40 PM
Why would it be? Is there some historic thing that makes white face paint offensive? White ppl use white face paint for going as ghosts or clowns, or mimes..... I usually agree what's good for the geese is good for the gander, but I think I'm missing the offensiveness of white paint on black, while i've seen enough pictures and movies and know enough history to know why black on white is.


Quoting Anonymous:

When someone black paints a white face somehow that isn't offensive though.

Anonymous
by Anonymous on Oct. 30, 2013 at 7:55 PM
Okay


Quoting Momofmenagerie:

Why would it be? Is there some historic thing that makes white face paint offensive? White ppl use white face paint for going as ghosts or clowns, or mimes..... I usually agree what's good for the geese is good for the gander, but I think I'm missing the offensiveness of white paint on black, while i've seen enough pictures and movies and know enough history to know why black on white is.




Quoting Anonymous:

When someone black paints a white face somehow that isn't offensive though.


lindamac62
by on Oct. 30, 2013 at 9:21 PM
We should all be respectful to everyone. If something is offensive to anyone, don't do it.
Capismommy
by on Nov. 2, 2013 at 11:34 PM

People try to declare ignorance. In Australia recently a woman held a "African" themed party and let all of her guests dress up in Blackface. It is extremely offensive to make a mockery of another group. People that claim ignorance I have no words for. People should know better. Blackface is offensive because of the history behind it. In the 19th century after slavery there were stereotypes that were created so that Blacks could be grouped into categories. African Americans weren't seen as individuals but made fun of for their complexions. Some things are taken too far. 

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