3 Replies to “Blackface

  1. This article is very interesting especially with the new wake of various government officials being outed with pictures of blackface. With that being said, I believe that this issue falls strongly under the topic of interest convergence. Interest convergence is when the majority (white population) only does something that benefits a minority when it also benefits the majority. The issue of making blackface illegal is that it does not benefit the majority. Many white people believe that there is nothing wrong with blackface and that it is just a way to have fun. The practice of blackface is a practice that is inherently and historically racist which was created by the white man. Proper repercussions are not being enforced on to those who still have been seen participating in the practice, especially in the case of government officials. Governor Northam, who admitted to being pictured in blackface, has not received any punishment other than verbal scolding. He was not asked to step down from his position as Virginia Governor (not to mention that Virginia is home to the former capital of the Confederate States of America). It is eveident that there is still a lot of racism in the state of Virginia.

  2. One reason it is so difficult to get blackface acknowledged and consequently punished as a racist action is because it is not in the interest of white people to do so. Minstrelsy and blackface was a huge cultural phenomenon that could be traced back as early as the 1920’s and can be seen even in University of Richmond’s yearbook till the late 60’s. If blackface is treated as it should be then a lot of white people in positions of power would be at risk of losing their jobs or facing some form of repercussion. Saying that they were young or it was just a different time lets them off the hook and is an example of the ways in which colourblindness excuses racism when it is not in the interest of the dominant group and continues to maintain a system of white supremacy.

  3. The reason why Blackface is an issue that generates so much disagreement when it comes to labeling it as a racist practice is reflected in the extreme ordinariness of racism in society. The idea behind ordinariness entails that Racism is difficult to address or cure because it is not acknowledged within society. I mean, of course, how can a disease be cured if it is not first diagnosed?
    In terms of Blackface, despite its widespread media coverage, its once historically racist ties have been euphemized by today’s society. Birth of a Nation, arguably the most popular film displaying blackface in history, aired on March 3rd, 1915. Birth of a Nation began to spread from theater to theater, however, it wasn’t until February 18th of the following year that its popularity increased tenfold with it being the very first film to be screened in the White House. In this film director D.W Griffith, together with an army of white actors in blackface, playing on racist stereotypes reinforcing the idea that black people are primal animals set out to taint the pure sexuality of white women. This is evident in the famous cliff scene where Gus, a white man in blackface, approaches Flora, the personification of white women’s sexual purity, and asks her to marry him. Flora then runs away with Gus chasing after her. Ending up on a clifftop, Flora chooses to jump off of the cliff to her death, rather than being defiled by Gus.
    In between 1915 and now, blackface along with its connotations has undergone a significant change in the eyes of America. With their recent scandals involving blackface, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring claimed their actions were a product of “Youthful Stupidity.” In response to critics calling for his immediate resignation, Northam responded, “Virginia needs someone that can heal” and how “there’s no one better to do this than a Doctor.” However, regardless of the excuses that they give, it does not erase the impact that their actions have stirred. This reveals a trend that has become popular in modern-day America of white people using their positions of power to inflict racial harm upon Black people, and then withdrawing into their privilege by claiming innocent intentions. Northam completely deflected his critics’ justification for him resigning, and instead, reminded us of his medical certification to ensure that he was well qualified to continue his term. All the while doing this never is the racist history of blackface directly addressed, and thus, the phenomenon of ordinariness is reinforced.
    In addition to the reinforcing of ordinariness, blackface reassures the relevance of Material Determinism in modern day American society. Material Determinism reveals the dark truth that because racism advances the interests of both white elites and working-class whites, larger portions of society have no interest in its eradication. Blackface, being fundamentally blatant in nature, extremely advances the interests of not only just white elites but all white people.
    With its original intent in mind, the presence of blackface serves as a reminder to all black people that in the eyes of our white counterparts, we are still seen as primal animals void of any shred of humanity, morality, and ethical code. Blackface does justice to both the wearer, and the white bystander. To the wearer, the individual can tap into their wild side by shredding their innocence and donning attire more suitable to their darkest fantasies. To the bystander, it reinforces the difference between whites and blacks regardless if they are at the same or opposing ends of the socio-economic spectrum. To the rich white elite, the black man is inferior regardless. But to the poor white working-man, who may be of the same socio-economic status, he still feels superior based on him not embodying the repulsive stereotypes displayed by the blackface caricature.

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