Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

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Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

Postby beowulf7 » 30 Aug 2016, 10:16

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-37211350

I'm not sure I can agree that blacking up is, in itself, racist or demeaning.

Thoughts?
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Re: Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

Postby ferdy0 » 30 Aug 2016, 10:22

Double standards is silly I find.

If you do something intentionally racist then yeah sure your being racist. but if your just doing it coz you want to then thats fine. we are all human.
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Re: Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

Postby beowulf7 » 30 Aug 2016, 13:06

I lean that way too - the white kid wanting to dress up as his black hero (on come to school as your hero day) is a case in point. His options appear to be 1) change the day to "dress up as your same race hero" (meaningless AND racist) 2) "Come to school looking nothing like the person you are dressing up as 3) offend people.

If you dress as the Hulk you "Greenface", right? Rapunzel you wear a wig? Are little girls "of colour" banned from dressing up as Elsa? If I dress as Nelson I pretend to be disabled - is that going to offend someone?

Seems to be another case of racial sensitivity rather than colour-blindness (which, IMHO, is the goal)

Dressing as a slave (or slaver) is making a point and you get what's coming. Ditto "Nazi Camp Guard" outfits are OTT. However wearing a head-dress to be Pocahontas (common near me as she's buried just up the road) ((I'm not bought in to "cultural appropriation" as a crime - fits into the white man's guilt type of thing to me)) - heck, most of the UK is obliged to "appropriate" Scottish culture every New Year's eve!!

My point is NOT that historic intolerance, subjugation and intolerance can be trivialised to be the same as a Marvel character - my point is that by locking "colour sensitivity" in place, you do not allow society to achieve a place where colour really does not matter. Personally I think a society where anyone can dress up as Bob Marley, Ghandi, Confucius or Blade without being automatically in the wrong, is where we should be heading.

PS: For any Australians out there - its ok, you're safe from cultural appropriation :)

In the longer run the term "race" is flawed almost to the point of being meaningless (just try and list what you count as races and you'll hit trouble pretty quickly) - certainly when applied to colour. And culture is something you can adopt (not genetic) (as any Scouser from Liverpool's Chinatown will tell you)
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Re: Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

Postby Rolan A Doobie » 30 Aug 2016, 14:05

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Re: Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

Postby ruffdove » 30 Aug 2016, 14:08

From the US perspective, there is some historical context to blackface that needs to be considered. In our entertainment industry, in an era when black characters were needed but black actors were not wanted, blackfaced white actors filled in. In a sense, the necessity of blackface was a result of segregation, and it became symbolic of it. It doesn't help the case that in that era, those blackfaced white actors were invariably playing implausibly stupid black characters that fed negative stereotypes. Then, after Hollywood discontinued the practice, white racists continued it on their own at the local level for years.

I'm not knocking the basic concept that you are talking about - i.e., simple costuming. But in America at least there is more historical and cultural baggage associated with the practice that IMO puts it more in your concentration camp guard category - i.e., something that thoughtful and decent people will avoid.

As for the Disney princesses - my blonde haired and green eyed daughter has dressed up for Halloween (and also not on Halloween, she loves dress up) as both Tianna (black), Jasmine (Arab),and Mulan (Chinese). She did not color her skin or wear a wig, she just wore the costume and had a blast. By the same token I have seen plenty of non-white girls dressed up as Cinderella, Aurora, Belle, etc. without wearing white face or blonde wigs. Kids tend to have more imagination than adults and maybe don't need their costumes to be so literally realistic.

And again, I speak on this issue only from the US perspective. Every country's historical baggage is different.

EDIT - Regarding the article, I applaud the aboriginal woman and her viewpoint and I despise anyone on social media or the news media who would publicly drag a child into this kind of debate. I don't know much about Australia and have no idea whether their professionally offended class has imported American baggage about blackface or if it exists independently in Australia.
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Re: Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

Postby beowulf7 » 30 Aug 2016, 16:21

Thanks, Ruffdove, I do accept USA has a different approach to race relations and a different history. That may well invoke a different response in USA.

However, I would counter that the USA model of the issue of race is one that has a history of accidentally entrenching separation and this probably needs attacking. I don't just mean segregation but much more modern stuff - as an example, much of the US entertainment industry ghettoizes the media - eg programmes with black actors for a black demographic. Hey, its not unique, I'm not claiming anywhere (or here) has it perfect. Just that the USA policy seems to be more about "giving THEM they same as WE have" rather than true integration. "Don't do that, THEY may not like it!", "THEY are not like us but we need to give THEM their own universities".

It bumps up against my concern how the USA deems anyone non-white as "black". My kids are mixed race, as such they are multi-cultural and light coloured. We don't talk about them being "black" but we do talk about them being brown and having African heritage. The "if you're a little black then you're "black"" approach has always struck me as divisive and, in itself, smacks of a dilution of some "pure" ideal. (I've yet to see anything positive about applying labels to people - "labelism" is my pet hate)

If you lump people together by the colour of their skin and then you add people like Trump talking as if every black person has exactly the same life then you're a long way from the place where everyone is "just a citizen"

I'm sure I sound like I am lecturing - sorry, that's not my aim. I'm a believer in multiculturalism (eg multiple cultures), I'm a believer in freedom to integrate (but not going to insist on it). I'm a WASP (well, actually an Atheist) but my life is lived amongst people of many cultures, colours, nationalities and sexualities. So I'm coming at this not put of outrage at political correctness but more out of despair that this sort of approach divides rather than unites. "Blacking up" no longer being offensive would be a sign that we were moving towards a post-racist society.
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Re: Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

Postby Antigonos » 30 Aug 2016, 16:44

I have a question. What is meant by blackface for the purpose of this discussion? I think of Blackface as a specific make up with black greased face and exaggerated lips/mouth. It was generally done on a specific entertainment context and replete with associated mannerisms and perhaps even clothes.

I do not consider Olivier's Othello which can be seen on film (or Cristopher Plummer's which I saw in live theater in the early 80s...it was second rate unlike Paul Robson who I saw in Stratford-on-Avon as a young child which was magnificent) to be blackface.

It seems to me that these two things should be distinguished and discussed on their own terms. It also seems to me that US "sensitivity" as with the US (I can't speak for UK) virtual ban on the use of the word nigger even if in a discussion about the problem of it's use (or it's appearance in Huckleberry Finn and other works of literature (I don't remember now if it appears in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man which I read over forty-five years ago.) Such books are being banned from school libraries and I think bowdlerized editions are being published which I consider an affront to literature and to readers including children are part of a very US tendency to focus on the trivial at the expense of still existing deeper social and economic problems that give such words and mere make up such continuing power. A ban never solves anything.

Certainly the question is not black and white. ;

PS Saw the Key & Peele video and thought it was neither clever nor useful but I admit that I am not up to some current popular cultural references.
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Re: Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

Postby beowulf7 » 30 Aug 2016, 16:47

RAD

Sorry, mate, watched it and learned nothing more - here in "post racial" mind set (dream), the thought of a white guy asking two non-white guys to judge the actions of white celebrities, doesn't really inform the debate. Bits of reality slipped out such as the acknowledgement that things in Europe were not so paranoid and the fact that you can judge someone "superior" as a form of racism (I'm telling you now, not all my brothers-in-law can dance!). Struck me as informing me what a minefield this subject is in the USA (and it is pretty much mainly in the USA)

I note that a person CAN be politically 100% correct and yet a complete racist! Similarly I remember my Grandma (on her death bed so be careful, folks) saying to me that "My nurse is a darky, but he's a wonderful man". That's the kind of breaking down of stereotypes that makes me smile.
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Re: Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

Postby beowulf7 » 30 Aug 2016, 17:05

Thanks, Antigonos

I think my concern is that the term "blackface" has expanded to include any blackening of the face. There is a tradition amongst UK Morris dancers in some areas to have a "blackface" as one or more of the dancers. This is probably (its unclear, it may be connected to the Moors but this does like a late re-interpretation) a reference to pagan rituals which predate awareness of other skin colours but the Blackface debate has caused some of the main festivals to ban them this year. Its a million miles form the "Uncle Sam" image but has been sucked in.

If the issue was about the "Ooh, golly, ma'sah" caricature then count me as firmly against. As I said, I have three mixed race kids and as a family we all feel it when the old stereotypes are out. I've just reread all the Tarzan books and, oh dear, those "low browed, unintelligent blacks" got everywhere. (Though there were also some "almost as noble as a white man" and even the blacks were "better than Swede" :D ) . So ban Tarzan too? Banning literature with unacceptable words seems the wrong thing to do - we can read something and judge it with its own temporal context.

Thankfully I don't expect to see the "Black and White minstrels" any time soon - but my kids have a gollywog!

(I'm remembering one of the things that I learned from a man here that has changed my life - "You do not have the right to not be offended" eg: if something offends somebody that is not, in itself, reason enough to ban it. Offending someone is often the first step towards changing a mind set)
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Re: Blackface - inherently wrong or sometimes ok?

Postby Keirador » 30 Aug 2016, 17:28

Rolan A Doobie wrote:

This is brilliant.
Did you know there’s a faceless old woman who secretly lives in your home? It’s true. She’s there now. She’s always there, just out of your sight. Always just out of your sight.
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