Journalist Megyn Kelly came under fire this week for her defence of Black Face. Kelly has subsequently apologised for her lack of awareness. However, America and Australia’s love affair with ‘Blackface’ seems never-ending. There have been numerous examples of people choosing to do black face.
For instance, a young Australian boy, dressed as his favourite AFL player, Nic Naitanui. Last year, during the Australian Open Semi-Finals a fan decided they would wear Blackface whilst ‘cheering’ on Serena Williams. These are only some of the many examples of Blackface creeping back into our popular culture once again.
Mr Naitanui, who is of Fijian heritage, said on Twitter that he did not believe there was any intentional offence but said the mother should:
“Reflect and choose an alternate method next time”
- Why did they think this would be acceptable?
Is it ok to do/say ‘racist’ things if you don’t mean them in a negative way?
- Why did no one say to her “hold up, that is not cool, go wash your face!”?
- Is Australia racist? Or is this more of a global problem of ignorance and awareness?
The fan’s parent and some people will say that this is not a big issue because she did not mean to be disrespectful. However, in 2015 Serena Williams questioned the motives and actions of fans that wore blackface in support of Australian Tennis Star Nick Kyrgios. So, if you are a fan of Serena Williams and Australian you should be fully aware that she does not find that sh*t funny! Also, Mr Naitanui has said he did not support the gesture. So really the debate should have been over already.
However, the debate has continued, to the extent that an Aborigine parent has come out in defence of Blackface by doing what she believed was ‘whiteface’ to her own child. When in fact, it was simply a child dressing as a clown from a Dr Seuss book. Being Black doesn’t always qualify you to speak with knowledge on historical race relations issues. It only leads some people to be used as the token voice of decent. Especially, if you believe a real-life Black person is comparable to a fictional clown.
With that said, this is 2016. Each year the history and knowledge of Blackface decrease. However, the ignorance and the incidents of Blackface increase with every Halloween night or celebration of a Black celebrity.
Here at AntoineSpeaks, we also explain! We believe there is no point lambasting people if they are genuinely unaware that something is offensive. Or if they do not know why something is offensive and subsequently, think they have a good enough argument to do as they please.
It’s like the kid in class poking you. Until you say look I don’t like being poked; they may think it’s all fun and games. But if you explain to them your feelings and they still insist it’s their right to poke you; then they are just…(insert fitting insult).
So why is Black Face wrong? And don’t make the mistake of believing there is a debate to be had here; BLACK FACE IS WRONG, OFFENSIVE, RACIST and INAPPROPRIATE!
But the most annoying thing about blackface is the people who defend it. So, here is why Black Face is wrong. And, why there is no defence, debate or discussion to be had. This will be too long a read for some of you, so here is an explainer video by presenter Antoine Allen ie me.
This viral example of Blackface proves that some people are still aware of the history and the racism that blacking up represents. However, there will be those who plead ignorance or genuinely are misinformed. Yet, even this example won’t be enough to stop some people from committing this faux pas.
We will explain the historical reason why Blackface is wrong later. For now, we will go straight to the biggest point!
- It’s not a PC debate; Black People ARE NOT A COSTUME DEAL WITH IT
Come Halloween, work parties, stag dos, hen parties and school parties; people often choose weird, wonderful and flamboyant costumes. “How about I dress up as a werewolf, sexy nurse, fireman, ghost or a generic stereotypical quasi-offensive depiction of a black person?”
How can ‘blacking up’ as a Black Person not be offensive?
A person can dress up as Mr T, The Jackson 5, Mo Farah, Usain Bolt, Michael Jordan or any other Black iconic figure without having to put black make-up on. A Generic Black person isn’t a costume. You can buy Rasta/afro wigs and go to your party, without the need to then black up your face. FYI many people also from Rasta/Afro wigs inappropriate. However, my opinion is a wig is fine, otherwise fancy dress, really would not be that fancy.
“But, what about black people, can they do it?” When people of colour go to fancy dress parties, do you see us doing white face? For instance, if I wanted to dress up as Elvis, I would simply put on a jacket and a wig. I do not need to apply white face paint to emphasise who I am. Seriously, no one is going to mistake me for Prince or Chucky Berry. Even though Elvis appropriated Chuck Berry’s style- Yeah I said it!
There have been recent examples of Blackface in Britain. One such example came in the form of a KKK themed party hosted by a Brixton Landlord. In American, it has also resurfaced in the form of a parody of Ray Rice and his disgraceful domestic violence abuse. Yet some white people sort to parody that dreadful moment and took it as the perfect opportunity to be that little bit more offensive by thinking to themselves “how about we black up too dear? Yes, great idea!”
To compound the issue there is even a picture of a child in Ray Rice black face. With that said, I will speak later on who is to blame for such disrespectful choices; hint children rarely dress themselves!
In England, we had the Ulster Rugby Team. The team said they were depicting the Ethiopian athletics team. Sorry, but who does that? I challenge you to find a picture of black people depicting the Swedish swimming team?
Firstly, they are adult men who should have known better. Secondly, look at the player in the middle. Not only did he paint himself brown but also he then thought “I know I will get some black paint specifically for my face”. What defence is there for that? What is he trying to be, an Ethiopian clown who also runs?
Sadly, another example can be found in an Aylesbury Grammar School’s incident of Black face. Not only did some boys decide to be the Blackfaced version of the Jamaican Bobsleigh team. Their Head Teacher decided to retweet the picture. This example is poignant in the fact that the boys were mere teenagers and most likely knew nothing of race relations (even though one of them is mixed race). Therefore, the blame lies in the parents, Teachers and Head Teacher. These adults said nothing to explain why black face was offensive and was not needed to complete their costume choice.
This then leads on to my earlier posts, where I discuss the impact of a lack of diversity in the media and interaction between races; why this has led to ignorance. This has caused racial faux pas to happen more frequently.
- Black face is indicative of historical stereotypes and is an excuse to continue contemporary stereotypes
Black face originated from the imitation of Black people in the entertainment industry of theatre and TV. This was during a time when black people were not allowed in some television shows or played minor roles.
I acknowledge it is asking a lot to expect people to remember shows that aired before they were born. However, this abhorrent time in television’s history should be ingrained in society’s social consciousness; so that it does not get repeated.
Here is a little bit of history:
“The Black and White Minstrel show was a popular show on The BBC in the 60s. The 60s was when there was the first small wave of people of colour in Britain. “The show’s premise began to be seen as offensive on account of its portrayal of blacked-up characters behaving in a stereotypical manner and a petition against it was received by the BBC in 1967. In 1969, due to continuing accusations of racism, Music Music Music, a spin-off series in which the minstrels appeared without their blackface make-up, replaced The Black and White Minstrel Show. It failed badly, was cancelled after 10 episodes and The Black and White Minstrel Show returned to win back viewers. Since its cancellation, The Black and White Minstrel Show has come to be seen more widely as an embarrassment, despite its huge popularity at the time. Wikipedia“
Since the end of this show, “Blackface” has moved from television to some people’s costume choices. Often the costume they choose are not always a celebrity or black icon. Sometimes people simply dress up as a negative black stereotype ie black criminal/gangsta. Black people are already annoyed by the portrayal of stereotypes on TV. We then do not want to turn up to our work Christmas party to see a coworker blacked up with his fist out to say, “Respect my Ni…”
- “But if you painted yourself white I wouldn’t mind?”
The argument that I am not offended by something so you should not be either is not valid here. OR in any other circumstance. Firstly, you cannot put yourself in the mind of another human or race to tell them how they should react to something they deem offensive. All you can do is try to understand and come to a conclusion that reflects our shared humanity.
Don’t offend me and I won’t offend you. Don’t hurt me and I won’t hurt you.
This is a very simple principle on how society should progress. So that means, don’t be racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist or derogatory to people with disabilities. It really is not that hard to just accept what should or should not be done or said.
However, some people do bring up examples of ‘white-face’ in the media. A few years ago, Nick Cannon and Snoop Dogg both did Whiteface. In Nick Cannon’s case, he is a comedian but even that was both pointless and could be considered offensive. However, without the historical derogatory lineage behind it, it’s not on par with Black face. But with that said, Nick should not have done it.
The next argument people put forward always seem to involve the comedy movie ‘white chics’. Whereby, two Black detectives go undercover as to white female socialities. This film parodies the two girls in a similar manner to clueless. However, the fact that there are other white girls in the film whom are not stereotypes, proves that despite the title it is not actually an attempt to give a negative portrayal of all white women. Moreover, there is no ‘white face in white chics’. Throughout the film, the characters are seen putting on masks. The film begins with them wearing latino masks. Thus, if someone wants to wear an Obama mask then they can. However, wearing a mask and painting your skin, ie doing black face are not the same.
- “But I didn’t intend to offend you”
So now you know; some of you are thinking “but I didn’t mean to offend you”. For this I say, ok, well you did. If I punch you in the face and do not mean to hurt you. But, you then tell me, “actually I don’t like being punched in the face and it did hurt”, I cannot then try to argue why punching you in the face is actually not that bad by reasoning that if you had been punched in the face yourself, you would not have been so “sensitive”. Just say sorry and don’t do it again! If I offended someone I would find out how and why, apologise and subsequently, seek to not make the same mistake!
But don’t say “I am sorry you are offended” or “I am sorry you were offended” these are just underhanded ways of saying “you are just sensitive but I am a nice person, so here’s a sorry that I don’t actually mean: sorry!”
Despite this explanation, there will sadly be more and more incidences of Blackface returning to our society. More people will commit this racial faux pa. Are they racist? Or just ignorant of why Black Face is wrong? I do not think they are racist, but ignorance becomes a choice once you reach a certain age or awareness level!
However, nothing is wrong just for the sake of it. Everything needs an explanation to support why it is wrong. Yet, too often in issues related to race, people’s explanations are rebutted with “you are just being sensitive!”. However, that should not stop a person from explaining why yourself and others are offended. More importantly, if you do see something as offensive you should speak out or share an explanation of why it is offensive… hint hint!
So, after reading or watching all of this if you do not understand; then you are making a conscious choice not to understand. If you do understand and you still feel you have every right to black up your face, then you need to question just how important to your life is it to go to fancy dress parties dressed as black people? Not that important? Then just don’t do it!
Much like the N word; do you really need to debate about why you should be able to say it? Or is the morally right thing to do, just to accept it’s offensive, so you just won’t say it! Or in this case, paint myself Black…
Let us know your thoughts
So what is your opinion on the black face?
Please comment and share; challenge someone to think a little deeper.