Halloween is here and no holiday of ghosts and ghouls would be complete without a requisite well-intended totally-not-racist-cos-I-have-Black-friends White person fully adorned in Blackface. This year’s winner hails from the proud state of Alabama and teaches at what I imagine is an even prouder elementary school. Everyone, I present Heath Morrow:
Heath, who is a fifth-grade teacher at Chestnut Elementary, and his wife Shannon decided a fun show-stopping shenanigan would be to attend the local scare-n-share dressed as the power couple Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. Very funny indeed. What is less funny is Heath’s choice of Blackface. Whether or not Chestnut Grove Elementary will deem this embarrassment to be one of their prouder moments is currently under review. What is also under review is the chorus of Black folks who have come out to defend Heath’s choice of costume. Here are some examples:
It’s rather ridiculous that it is still necessary to delineate what the offense actually is. There is nothing wrong with dressing up as Kanye West for Halloween. I repeat, dressing up as a person is not inherently problematic. The problem arises when someone makes the slant argument that it is necessary to use Blackface to “dress up” as their Doppelganger of choice. If your costume relies so heavily on racist schtick to sell itself, it’s probably best to pass it by and dust off last year’s fireman uniform.
Blackface has both a history and a present and none of it is good. A simple google search would reveal that. Plus, here is Wikipedia’s take on the use of Blackface today: “By the mid-20th century, changing attitudes about race and racism effectively ended the prominence of blackface makeup used in performance in the U.S. and elsewhere. It remains in relatively limited use as a theatrical device and is more commonly used today as social commentary or satire.”
Heath’s participation in skin-blackening is not the equivalent of White Chicks (which, by the way, was satire). There was also absolutely nothing satirical about it. That some Black folk still haven’t gotten the memo has my head at a tilt. Not to mention, skin-whitening not only has the exact opposite legacy of Blackface, it is actually a current phenomenon marketed and celebrated around the world as being non-racist. A method of boosting self-esteem and self-worth in a society that constantly diminishes Blackness.
“Whiteface” and “Blackface” are inherently different and incomparable. After all, Black college students don’t dress up in “Whiteface” and have trailer trash themed parties now do they? White folk, on the other hand, have no shortage of such displays of ignorance. Just check this article titled 13 Racist College Parties to catch a glimpse of that.
So, considering the enduring, hurtful legacy of the use of Blackface by White folk, please explain to me how so many Black people are jumping to this White man’s defense?