History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time. ~Anonymous
My husband and I frequently have poignant conversations. There is a phrase that shows up almost every time and that is 'perception is reality'. Your intent may come from a good place, but what matters is how it is perceived. Blackface showing up anywhere in today's society is not well-received. As a matter of fact, it isn't received at all. The intent is shattered to pieces and we are left with the perception that the African American culture is being demeaned - once again. I wanted to address the historical reasons why it is so offensive. If there is anyone left in the world that still has no idea why millions of people of all races light up their social media accounts with heated discussions in response to the countless stories that have been brought up in the past month, then hopefully this brief article will assist in providing the answer.
Blackface was originally used in minstrel shows in the 1830s where white entertainers would use shoe polish or burnt cork on their face to appear to be black. They dressed in tattered clothing and imitated slaves on Southern plantations. These performances characterized blacks as lazy, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexual, and prone to thievery and cowardice. Plainly stated, slaves were the butt of a humorless joke. We were mocked, degraded, and mischaracterized. In an era where we were thought of as 3/5 of a person, the stereotypes were created to increase the validity of white society - the majority.
If I could have the nigger show back again in its pristine purity,
I should have little use for opera." -- Mark Twain
According to the National Museum of African American History & Culture, blackface and the codifying of blackness— language, movement, deportment, and character—as caricature persists through mass media and in public performances today. In addition to the increased popularity of “black” Halloween costumes, colleges and universities across the country continue to battle against student and professor blackface performances. In each instance, those facing scrutiny for blackface performances insist no malice or racial hatred was intended. Remember what I said in the beginning of this article regarding intent?
Blackface performers are, "...the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied them by nature,
In which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow citizens." -- Frederick Douglass
It seems simple to me - if it remotely resembles blackface then don't do it. If you have to ask if something is offensive, then it might be safe to decide not to do it or say it. And for all of my 'woke' friends and family, let's try to remember that your perspective is not the only one that should be considered. Our experiences as humans will never be the same, but they are all valid and should be treated with respect whether we agree or not.
No more blackface, ok America?.
Written by C. Morrison