by WorldTribune Staff, February 11, 2019
The use of blackface in the United States goes back to around the 1830s when white actors in minstrel shows darkened their faces and used exaggerated stereotypes to dehumanize black people.
In January, Florida’s Republican secretary of state, Michael Ertel, resigned after it was revealed that, in 2005, he used blackface while dressed as a Katrina victim for Halloween.
Fashion house Gucci has pulled a sweater from its physical and online stores after criticism that it resembled blackface.
In Virgina, Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats, have admitted to wearing blackface in the past. Neither has resigned.
“Honestly, it’s getting confusing to keep track of when blackface is racist, when it’s not and just whom we’re supposed to hate,” columnist Cheryl K. Chumley wrote for The Washington Times on Feb. 7.
Chumley noted that another interesting aspect of the story is “watching members of the media duck and dodge for the Democrats caught between a rock and a racist place,” pointing to the following headline from The New York Times:
“Virginia Attorney General Says He Also Dressed in Dark Makeup”.
“It’d be hard picturing The Times writing such a headline for, say, Republican Ken Cuccinelli back when he was attorney general, had he faced similar blackface issues,” Chumley noted.
Luckily, the twitterverse took the Times to task.
Mediaite compiled the following collection of tweets:
“NYT: Virginia AG admits to excessive contouring.” And this: “NYT headline writers what are you thinking? ‘Dark Makeup.’ ” And this: “Would have loved to be a fly on the wall for the tortured editorial discussion that led to the Times going with ‘dark makeup’ here.” And one more — this: “Oh so what’d he wear @nytimes? Was it a particularly smoky eye? Maybe some autumnal hues? A bold purple lipstick? I can’t tell.”
The Times ultimately changed the headline to: “Virginia Attorney General Says He Also Dressed in Blackface”.
“But that’s not the only head-shaker in recent blackface scandal times,” Chumley wrote.
Viewers of ABC’s “The View” were recently reminded how long-time leftist co-host Joy Behar explained in a 2016 segment how, at the age of 29, she dressed as what she described as a “beautiful African woman” for a Halloween party. Behar said she applied facial makeup “that was a little bit darker than my skin.”
The segment showed a photograph of Behar’s Halloween look that led Raven-Symone, a former fellow “View” co-host who is black, to quip: “Joy, are you black?” and “Are you my auntie, Joy?” and “Did you have tanning lotion on, Joy?”
A better question, Chumley noted, might have been: “Joy, are you wearing blackface?”
Florida’s secretary of state resigned after it was revealed he wore blackface on Halloween. Behar has not indicated she would quit and ABC has not indicated it would fire her for wearing blackface on Halloween.
Many who have put on blackface, including several celebrities, insist it was not racist but somehow a tribute to blacks who they respect.
“In many ways, one’s intent is irrelevant,” said David Leonard, chair of Washington State University’s department of critical culture, gender, and race studies. “The harm, whether it’s harm in terms of eliciting anger, or sadness, or triggering various emotions or causing [black people to feel] both hyper-visible and invisible at the same time, is there. When someone says, ‘I didn’t mean it that way,’ well, their real question should be not ‘Did I mean it?’ but, ‘Am I causing harm?’ ”
Chumley concluded: “Blackface is likely to remain a hot media item for cycles to come, particularly since Northam is refusing to leave his seat. But it’d be nice to get the rules straight, the definitions solidified. It’d be nice to come to a consensus on what’s blackface, what’s dark makeup, who gets a pass versus who doesn’t – and oh yes, when the statute of limitations for punishment hits its deadline.”