In recent weeks, there have been dozens of discussions, conversations, and social media debates about the use of Blackface, and whether or not it is offensive. These conversations have been exhausting and infuriating to many people of all ethnicities, nationalities, and walks of life. Some argue that the intent of someone performing in Blackface should outweigh the impact of it. I say that there is nothing to debate, and there is no argument. Blackface is degrading, humiliating, and offensive.
Okay, before we go any further, if you’re in need, here is some Blackface 101 : http://black-face.com/
The historical impact of Blackface is immeasurable. It’s a racist, demeaning act, used to deny black people our right to self representation, and it has helped to create many of the racial stereotypes that plague us today.
Very true, we are not talking about Louisiana. We’re talking about Canada, 2015 (and I’m specifically talking about Montreal, Quebec).
Wait, I’m sorry… huh? Did you just say “racism is dead”? I thought I had to “learn to laugh” before it died? Did I learn what’s allegedly funny about Blackface during the last paragraph? I’m confused, please elaborate…
Hold on, wait… so, you’re calling me racist? For calling out the racist practice of Blackface? Please explain how that makes any sense…?
Yes, thank you. That’s the point I was trying to make before —
Ok guys, once again this is not a joke. It’s really not funny to be told to “Relax a bit”, when you don’t feel my frustration, nor are you trying to empathize and understand why this hurts me.
Believe me, I would love to just “move past it” like Uncle Remus (see: Song of The South), but I’d rather take the time to acknowledge and deal with the uncomfortable issue at hand, so that the next wave of people behind us don’t have to keep repeating the same conversations over and over. Doesn’t that make sense?
Ok I guess not… Anyways, Like I was saying, we need to acknowledge that you might have a privilege that affords you to not need to “care about the issue” the same way that I do. I shared the Blackface 101 link with you above, because some of us are coming into this discussion at the 600 level. I won’t use “better” vs. “worse”, but let’s say that even today in Montreal, black people are still treated differently than white people. Can we begin with acknowledging that?
Did you just call the portrayal of PK Subban in Blackface “a tribute”? I’m not sure if you realize how offensive that sounds. No, not ‘sounds’, is.
DERAILING A CONVERSATION.
Yes, thank you. Ok. Let’s try to get back to the discussion in terms of performance, shall we?
This is exhausting…
You know what guys, you’re not even trying to hear each other, so—
He should’ve never done it in Blackface, I agree with that part. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWCe6bW0-Fs) as for the rest, Whatchu Talkin’ Bout? uugh…
We clearly need a resolution, folks. How do we get there? How do we have these conversations without personal attacks, name calling, and raw emotions bubbling to the surface every time?
Blackface is racist. And I don’t use that word lightly, because it carries much weight. Racism is heavy, ugly stuff. I know this because I experience it every day on some way, big or small.
This stuff is exhausting. I’ve seen threads with debates between theatre goers, theatre practitioners, and theatre critics. And although great points get made on every one of them, each time someone questions whether or not Blackface is even offensive in the first place, I feel like I’ve stepped out of a DeLorean. We are in 2015, and if you still choose to say “oh, that actor was just wearing brown make-up on his face, he wasn’t in Blackface”, then your cognitive dissonance is stronger than most, and you should bottle it for you are truly of a rare breed.
Maybe everyone is a bit sensitive these days.
Or, maybe so many are desensitized.
Let’s call a spade a spade and be clear: Blackface is racist.Calling something racist is not offensive, particularly when said thing is Blatantly racist.
Making “jokes” about stereotypes of black people, while wearing brown make-up and bright red lipstick is absolutely racist. Blackface tells black people that “You don’t belong. We don’t need you to represent yourself, we’ll do it, mockingly, or otherwise.” There is so much history that is available at our fingertips about why it is offensive, and how it has been used to humiliate black people. World history. Canadian history. Quebec history. Je me souviens. My hope is that we all remember.
And if not, then I hope the people who continue to perform in Blackface can’t remove their makeup after their next show, so that they can deal with the consequences of having a real black face in today’s world. Perhaps then some empathy can seep in.
Here are some links worth checking out:
- Intent Vs. Impact:
- Black & White movies:
- Jay Smooth “How To Tell Someone They Sound Racist“:
- Here’s Why Racism’s Not “Just Comedy”:
- Bye Bye 2006:
- Ensemble contre le Blackface:
- Vice article:
- “Tradition” :
*All names and photos from publicly viewable social media debates have been removed because this is not about making anyone a target, it’s about showing that these conversations are still in existence, today in 2015. And that needs to change.*