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Resurface of Blackface in Media

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by Taheera Washington, Copy Editor

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Nowadays, there’s a thin line between being offensive or appreciative when taking into account the topic of races. From birth, we’re taught to be accepting of all races and cultures in order to fill the resolve of becoming the “post-slavery” and all-inclusive world where all are accepted despite differences in complexion. Still, there’s been a reversal in this ideology as there are still those who use blackface as a form of entertainment when the offensive and shameful history resonates deeply in many nations.

Blackface stems from the slandering of black people during the era of slavery, completely decimating the world’s views on this racial group with the usage of racist, comic depictions and attitudes to create social stereotypes that are still seen today. These negative stereotypes include the Coon, the Jezebel, the Uncle Tom and the Angry Black Woman – all creating this cesspool of what the world considers as the black identity. These worldly views slowly became taboo in society, getting lost in the abolition of slavery. Years later, the problem emerges once again, creating a new addition to racism.

In January, Japanese comedian, Masatoshi Hamada, performed a skit where he dressed up as Eddie Murphy. He painted his skin brown, emphasized the shape of his overdrawn lips and wore an afro as a wig. While it was for the purpose of comic relief, the fact of the matter is that many East Asians and other cultures are often seen belittling African culture or appropriating it, so, because of that, people had split opinions regarding the comedian’s costume. Some say that he was simply paying homage to the actor or that this was just a display on how naive and uneducated that the region is despite all of the resources around them like with the Internet access.

On the other hand, there’s the simple fact of the matter that  cultures struggle with their own internal discrimination against darker tones. Having a richer, dark skin tone, historically, is related to coming from a poorer, less fortunate background. With its negative connotation, it’s no doubt that western press would find offense to the blatant discrimination of darker skin tones in eastern media. Whether it’s the promotional advertisement from the Thailand branch of Dunkin Donuts that painted a Thai model pitch black with vibrant fuschia lips that shares resemblance to early replicas of blackface in the past, or South Korea with the K-pop band, Bubble Sisters, mimicking the soulful nature of many African American singers, being fairer is always the better choice and those of darker pigmentations are held to a lesser standard.

Yet, here in the United States, a place where slavery wasn’t abolished until 1865 and segregation wasn’t outlawed until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racial tensions still remain tight with the resurfacing of racial inequality. With movements like Black Lives Matter, discriminatory measures against African Americans are brought to the light more than ever before. From politics to nominations, if the number of people of color lacks in any way, then backlash is received at lightning speed. This somehow created a need for others to promote equality more than ever, as people understand that there’s a larger demographic out there than just one or two races. This tense protocol calls for little to no room for mistakes to be made, and with the makeup industry, representation is held to the utmost value. However, the need to show appreciation to those of another race is taken too literally with the Instagram trend to transform into an African American. With the world watching more intently than ever, controversy is bound to ensue with cultural appropriation taking place, but with the line of what’s appropriate and what’s not becoming skewed, it’s harder than ever to not offend at least one person.

For too long, those of African descent have been seen as a source of entertainment. What was lacked in beauty, intelligence or talent was seemingly made up for with being comic relief. However, with times modernizing, these acts of any sorts are inexcusable and wrong on all levels. While sometimes blackface occurs due to a lack of knowledge on the matter, there comes a time when apologizing just isn’t enough to suppress the offensive nature of the act. With this reemergence of blackface, it feels as if the progress made is suddenly being reversed. By taking the time to think about whether or not something could possibly offend a whole population, appropriation will diminish and halt this comeback of a belittling “costume.’

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Resurface of Blackface in Media