October 29, 2013

Blackface popular for Halloween 2013

Blackface seems to be making a comeback this Halloween. The parallels to redface, which is still widely tolerated in America, are obvious.

There's no reason, or excuse, for blackface Halloween costumes

By Roxane GayActress Julianne Hough stepped out in blackface over the weekend. She was attending a Halloween party as Crazy Eyes from “Orange Is the New Black.” That’s fine. The show is hot this year and Crazy Eyes is a popular character. Hough wore the prison oranges, had her hair done up in what charitably could be considered Bantu knots and wore a name tag that said “Crazy Eyes.” That should have been enough—the necessary cues were there.

Hough took her costume one step further, though, dousing herself in bronzer to darken her skin so she might better resemble Uzo Aduba, the actress who plays Crazy Eyes. The blackface did nothing of the sort. It never does. Instead, Hough looked like she spent way too much time out in the Los Angeles sun before stepping out that evening. Once the images of Hough in her ill-informed costume were released, the Internet went crazy.

Here we were, yet again, having this bewildering conversation about why blackface, given its historical uses and the ongoing sensitivity around issues of race, will never be an appropriate costume choice. The apology parade began, and Hough said: “I am a huge fan of the show ‘Orange is the New Black,’ actress Uzo Aduba and the character she has created. It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people, and I truly apologize.”

We know this dance. Public figure makes misstep. Public figure apologizes. That apology is then dissected endlessly, and we’re left wondering if the public figure even knows what they’re apologizing for.
Is this 2013 or 1913? 7 Disgusting Displays of Halloween BlackfaceIn the last week or so, we've seen a rash of blackface episodes that makes us wonder. All of these attracted media attention, and while they're all very ugly, we'd venture to say that this handful of blackface incidents pales in comparison to the number of redface costumes that will go unreported or even unremarked.

Here's hoping that we'll reach a stage when white people pretending to be American Indian is as shame-worthy as white people pretending to be black.
More about one of the incidents:

White Teen In Blackface Responds To Black Critics: ‘Worry About Finding Your Dad’

And one more incident that involved black stereotypes but not blackface:

Fraternity in hot water for “Hood Ratchet” party

Reminder: Cultural appropriation always looks bad

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
The Theta Xi event invitation had depicted an African-American man holding a wad of cash, and promised “bad bitches, white girls, basketball players, thugs, gangsters ratchet pussy” that “we goin back to da hood again!!” But University Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper sent a letter of rebuke to the frat Thursday, saying, “The language of the invitation and theme of the party denigrated all women and African American/black identified people through racial stereotypes and cultural appropriation. This behavior is offensive, disrespectful and unacceptable at the University of Michigan.”What's wrong with blackface?

The first rule of blackface: It’s not hard to understand, everyone

...is don't wear blackface. The end. Now why is that so hard for some people to remember?

By Brittney Cooper
When white folks paint their bodies black, they demonstrate that they see the black body as a permissive site for the expression of trauma, pain and illicit pleasures. In other words, being in a black body permits them to do everything they are uncomfortable doing in a white body: being lewd and crude, celebrating violence, acting sexually promiscuous, using racial slurs.

This is just one more lie of white racism: that black people are free to do all the things our society hates and demonizes while white people are bound by the strictures of respectability. White pathologization of the black body is classic psychological projection. Everything that there is to abhor about whiteness and white supremacy gets projected onto the black body and becomes a material problem for black people.

Now for many people who simply do not want to concede the horror and racism of these acts by Filene and the Cimenos, it would be easy to dismiss this as individual racism, to suggest that these people are clearly jerks, but that their sentiments are not generalizable.

Every year, pictures surface on social media of college kids and regular citizens donning blackface for parties. This is not an isolated incident. It keeps happening and it happens because white people do not actually believe this constitutes an injury to black people. Or maybe they just don’t care.

“We’re just having fun,” many of them say. Look, I get the cultural fascination with black skin. The American national imaginary is built on the mythic lore of black otherness–superhuman strength to supply the main labor force of the national economy, men and women with extraordinary sexual desire and prowess, unparalleled athleticism, and a deep anger that leads to a fearsome capacity for violence.
When Black People Dress Up As White People For Halloween

By Danielle CadetEvery year, someone dons a controversial costume. And every year people spend several weeks wagging their fingers and shaking their heads and scolding said awful person for doing such an awful thing. And every year, that awful person--particularly when they're someone famous like sweet, little Julianne Hough--apologizes for being awful and unaware that his or her actions would be even slightly offensive to anyone, especially his or her black friends (because said person always has several friends of color with whom he or she immediately becomes even better friends with after all of the hullabaloo and accusations of racism).

But here's a very important message: Ignorance is not an excuse. It's especially not an excuse in a world where it's possible to know every verse on the Yeezus album 20 minutes after it's leaked online, or in a world where people who haven't read the viral story of the day are immediately considered stupid, uncool individuals who must spend their days living under a rock.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you have to fully understand the history of blackface--and I promise, I'll spare you a long explanation because I know you won't read it anyway. I'm not asking you to be an Africana studies major in college, or watch documentaries on minstrel shows. I'm asking you to do what you do every day, read the damn news, share stories on social, talk about things you found interesting or crazy or weird. You can't tell me you didn't read last year's story about blackface and you didn't see your black friend's post on Facebook last year (it probably said something like "really?" or "ugh" or "not again") when it happened...LAST YEAR.

The issue with hiding behind the ignorance safety net (i.e. "I didn't know it was offensive," or "I thought it was funny," or "I wasn't trying to be racist.") is you take the responsibility off of yourself and put it on everyone else. It becomes everyone else's (read: black people's) responsibility to teach you why blackface is offensive--which is the ultimate problem with privilege. It somehow becomes the oppressed person's responsibility to educate the offender turning the victimizer into the victim, but we won't even go there.
Attention Thought Catalog: Blackface is always racist

A white female writer doesn't understand why Julianne Hough's blackface costume was offensive

By Prachi Gupta
Rheel, who at some academic level understands why blackface is degrading, acknowledges her ignorance first by stating it, and then by demonstrating it:Before I continue, let’s just get one thing out of the way. I am in fact, a white person. I’m not trying to pretend like I know what it is to be black in America and have to deal with a bunch of ignorant white nonsense on a regular basis but is this really one of those times? Like, honestly. I want to know. Because it seems like most of the people who are getting upset over Hough’s costume are white to begin with and it makes me want to say “chill out white people!” There’s plenty of actual racism going on in the world for you to freak out over and prove how not racist you are, but this probably isn’t your moment.Her distinction between “actual racism” and all that other, REAL racism is reminiscent of the embarrassing LL Cool J and Brad Paisley song, “Accidental Racist.” Rheel decides that Hough’s blackface is innocuous because Hough is “a white woman getting what is essentially a heavy spray tan to more accurately portray her favorite character.” According to Rheel, getting upset over this “seems like a trivialization of what blackface was in the first place.”

Listen up, Kelly Rheel: Darkening your face to make yourself look more like a black person IS blackface. That action turns blackness into a costume; it is a nod to years of oppression in which blackface was used as a theatrical weapon against black people, as Salon’s Brittney Cooper eloquently explains here. Always. If you’re not “trying to pretend like I know what it is to be black in America,” then please stop trying to pretend like you know what it is like to be black in America.
Comment:  For more on blackface, see Mummers Parade in Redface, Blackface and 1491s on Redface and Blackface.

Below:  "Greg Cimeno's Trayvon Martin costume was idiotic, and posting pictures of it on Facebook wasn't exactly a genius move either."

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