STOP. Stop right there.
I will not be polite about this any longer, neither will I patiently nor calmly try and convey the reasons why everything to do with Blackface and any attempt to normalise, justify, defuse with humour and encourage it is utterly un-acceptable. UN-ACCEPTABLE.
I don't know what the tantalising obsession is with Blackface. I can assure you that the majority of 'black people' would rather the horrid and disgraceful practice to be prohibited completely and only taught as a 'What the world used to be like' session in school. I promise you it is notthose with melanin rich skin whom perpetuate the topic.
IT'S EVERYONE ELSE.
The amount of times I've heard and read people comparing every slightly offensive injustice with the utterly corrosive trend of Blackface makes my eyes boggle with wonderment. Really? Being told that you throw like a girl is as bad as Blackface? REALLY?
Even Mary Cheney used the comparison to champion an argument against Drag Queens, citing that dressing up and imitating women is as offensive as Blackface. **
Listen, whatever your grievances are, it will never be comparable to Blackface so find something else to back up your argument and stop being so ridiculous! The lazy comparison is too easily used to highlight hurt feelings. It's blatant ignorant behaviour and I wish people would do some research and understand the history of what Black Face actually is and what it represents before they open their mouths.
But I ask myself, should I be so aghast with how un-educated people are about this or is this indicative of the world we, currently, live in? I guess when I can switch on my television and see the likes of Bill O'reilly who spews vicious, racist, corrosive vitriol on Fox News and is lauded as a champion of free speech; I really shouldn't be surprised at all.
If someone dressed up and wore a big hat, pointy nose and chin, pretended to have a hunched back, count pennies and said they were imitating a Jewish person, they'd be vilified. Remember when Prince Harry was criticised for wearing a Nazi uniform? Damn right too! A shocking in-sensitive gesture, one that suggests that Prince Harry has no concept of the connotations that such a costume holds or maybe that he has no empathy towards the pain and atrocities that it represents. If I rocked up to a Halloween party in a wheelchair, speaking in a funny voice, with bandages on my arms and legs and said "Look I'm going as a spastic paraplegic" I'd probably be asked to leave or escorted out. Why? Because the act, though seemingly innocent and 'all good fun', is minimising the experience of a paraplegic or anyone in a wheelchair to a one dimensional comical act for my enjoyment whilst refusing to acknowledge the human reality behind it.
Nowadays if you show any signs of anti semitism or discrimination towards disabled people you are quickly reprimanded. People have ruined their careers by saying things deemed as anti-Jewish. Yet to put some shoe polish on your face is totally acceptable. In fact it is enjoyed, embraced and any objection is completely dismissed as being the reaction of someone overly sensitive.
Blackface was used to mock, suppress and degrade an already mocked, suppressed and degraded group of people. Blackface is not a harmless costume like a witches hat or werewolf mask- it's real. It happened during a terrible time in history; highlighting the worst of our human traits: dehumanising another individual for the gain of oneself. There are people in this world old enough to still remember it all and the effects of those times still trickle down into the 21st century in today.
I advise you to visit Piccadilly Circus on Halloween this year. I went last year and was overwhelmed with the sea of people un-ashamedly parading the street with painted black faces. It was so surreal. And in that moment London truly revealed itself to me. I stood there and thought 'These are my kin; my contemporaries. The people I work with, get served in Top Shop by, sit in the cinema with and here they are running around having the time of their lives not giving a damn about the ethical ramifications of putting shoe polish on their face'. It seems any chance to pretend to be black and make fun of those who are; is leapt at by the majority. And that fills me with a sense of great shame and anger.
There is a willing ignorance that has swept the nation. Ignorance to the context and history of Blackface. Ignorance of the lingering, emotional and societal effects of Blackface. Ignorance to want to empathise and understand why such an action is offensive so damn hurtful.
At University, a guy in my class asked me why 'black people' always seem to have a chip on their shoulder. The question made my eye twitch with irritation. Should I use him as a template and ask why all white, middle class men are arrogant, ignorant and bigoted? I tried to articulate an answer that debunked his sweeping notion of 'all black people are angry' yet to this day I don't think he gets it. We are still in touch and I hope he reads this. Perhaps he will understand that sometimes, it all gets a bit much: the constant fight to justify one's existence, to be represented authentically, to establish equality, to be seen as human and not some creature that's examined, mocked and seen as an exotic, oversexualised freak show, to have some peace. I think those daily micro and macro aggressions warrant a little bit a vexation, don't you?
So if you do not wish to encounter my (very justified) wrath this Halloween try something new eh? Come as a mummy, Lara Croft, Spawn, Blanka, even Goku- just use your imagination! Leave the Blackface where it should stay: in the past.
** FYI Mary Cheney comparing the art of Drag to being as offensive as Blackface is another level of ignorance altogether. The marginalised gay community created this art form in order to express themselves within a community that refused to except their identity and a lot of these people were of an ethnic minority too. The imitation is a form of flattery not mockery. If these Drag Queens are bitchy, that's simply their personality, NOT their interpretation of a woman. Personally I do not watch them and feel that it reflects me (as a woman) in anyway. And it is, certainly, in no way tantamount to the horrendous act of Blackface. Not even close. I know she was trying to stick a pin on the map for feminism but she failed. I am pro feminism all the way and I can, also, distinguish that sexism and racism have different histories which at times parallel each other yet cannot be compared. It was hindering to both feminism and ant-racism to make the statement.