I wrote this post a little while ago, but never got around to publishing it. Hope you enjoy reading it….
A recent poll revealed that 4 out of 10 Americans are okay with Blackface. Honestly, I am not surprised and I am sure that many other Americans are not either. This is a serious problem! One that needs to be addressed in our society.
Halloween or any type of themed party, does not give anyone permission to perpetuate stereotypes about a race, culture, or poke fun in jest about these individuals. Hiding behind the guise of a theme is just cowardly and ignorant. It is often said that true feelings and thoughts come out when adults have too much to drink. I believe that same can be said for those that choose to dress up in an offensive manner on Halloween or at themed parties.
The past couple of weeks have been filled with instances where people have showed their true colors—from the person who decided to dress up as Trayvon Martin for Halloween, Julian Hough dressing as a popular black character from Orange is the New Black, and those who wore Blackface to a “Disco Africa,” Halloween party. Let’s take a moment to put the shoe on the other foot. I am sure if I as a black man, decided to dress up as a Jewish man who was in an internment camp, people would be outraged. They would say I was being disrespectful to those that lost their lives during the Holocaust. And I could not agree more.
We should have that same outrage for those who choose to wear Blackface. Blackface has a stepped history of perpetuating negatively stereotypes of blacks for a laugh. Considering how blacks in this country continue to struggle for equality, Blackface is the last thing people should be doing in jest. Even if you think we are in a “post-racial” world, it’s simply unacceptable.
In this country we continue to push aside the issue of race, especially when it is brought up by African Americans. Some will say, “Oh slavery was a longtime ago,” or “the Civil Rights Movement happened x number of years ago. Can’t we just let it go?” No, we can’t just let it go.
It is our inability to learn from these past events and evolve on the issue of race that hinders us as a society. Instead, we seek to lock up these past instances of horrific violence and discrimination in a nice little box and store it away in our attic never to be seen again. But we have attempted to do this for far too long and the time has come for us to really deal with the issue of race.
Unfortunately, there is no easily solution of how this should be accomplished. Nor, do I have the best possible way to start the discussion. But it is definitely something that we need to tackle as a collective community. We need to understand that dealing with race will not be an easy conversation and will be difficult at times. It will require brute honestly, self-reflection, and emotions.
While I may not know the best way to start the conversation on race, I can tell you what I do to push the discussion forward in my own little way. As a college professor, I make it my mission to expose my students and encourage them to see social issues from another groups prospective. I often play devil’s advocate and will bring a minority perspective into class discussions to challenge the prevailing societal notions.
Although this may not seem like a big deal, it is very important. I am challenged with preparing the next generation of leaders to lead an ever changing and more diverse country, and world. If we are not able to learn from past instances, mistakes, have open dialogue that propels discussion about how to address current and emerging problems, then we are in big trouble. So the next time you or someone you knows thinks it will be a good idea to wear Blackface or some other form of offensive costume, take a moment to think of the larger implications outside of the number of likes you’ll receive on your Instagram page.
Some may think that race is an old tired argument that is just used to get under the skin of Whites when people of color (particularly African Americans) try to justify keeping welfare and public assistant programs. That race doesn’t matter anymore, especially in the post-Civil Rights Era. Well, just because laws were passed to give “equality” and a Black man was elected president—the issue of race did not disappear. Overall, as a society we seem to forget the years of systematic racism that African Americans had to endure before we were given “equality.”
In a capitalistic society we would be naïve to think that wealth and race do not affect one another. African Americans have always been economically deprived and the passage of legislation to grant equality could do nothing to correct this wrong. Why? Because race and the factors surrounding it were never fully discussed and resolved. We as Americans don’t want to go down that slippery slope because it may open some old wounds and flair emotions.
But I ask, why not if it helps to bring equality to all people? Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show, guest host Melissa Harris-Perry (@MHarrisPerry) conducted an excellent analysis of the racial wealth gap. Conversations such as this one are sorely needed and much overdue. Turning a blind eye to glaring problems will not solve the problem. Race will continue to be an issue until we continuously have open conversations like these and work towards solutions, whatever they may be.