It’s that time of year again: the time where people will choose costumes that are not racist and those that are. Ok, some of you reading this are thinking: “WHOA! Costumes are not racist!” You, my dear friend, need to read this.
Always like clockwork, someone shows up on the Internet or at a party wearing blackface. Sadly, it seems to happen a little more frequently in the region where I am. I get it, maybe no one has broken it down enough for you to understand and the Internet says: “No, just no, not ever!” but you are a person who will do something unless you know precisely why. This is your come to Jesus party, my friend. I am writing this to break it down into something that might make sense for you.
Some people are still confused about why and how blackface is offensive. Let me put this simply:
What is it that drew you to your Halloween costume?
Let’s take Beyonce, because, really, who wouldn’t want to channel Queen Bey for a night!?
What do you like about Beyonce? Her amazing talent? Her incredible dance moves? That she’s a strong woman? That she grew up kicking stereotypes in their teeth?
How could you dress like Beyonce? A wicked body suit with jewels? Some fishnets or shimmery stockings? A fiercely sexy yet empowered outfit? Or if you’re funny, a tiara and a bee costume.
You can dress up in any of these outfits and be an amazing Beyonce!
Are you thinking, “But, wait! No one will know who I am!” Is what makes Beyonce ‘Beyonce’ her skin color? It’s part of her identity, but not her single identity, and that part of her identity you should not imitate. It is hers. You cannot borrow it. This is the part where the Internet said, “No, just no, not ever!”
Blackface has a history in the theater. It was used to wrongfully imitate and demean a group of people, not a particular person in most instances. This meant perpetuating stereotypes while wearing burnt cork, dark paint, or shoe polish to darken the wearer’s skin, as if their racism was not evident enough. This practice only has once place: in history. Please do not continue to perpetuate these stereotypes. And, yes, my friend, stereotypes are racist.
By wearing blackface, it sends the message that all you see about people with skin different than yours is their skin color. You only see and care about the caricature you imagine of them. People are human beings, and their culture and identity are not for sale. Let me also bring up that history piece. Stereotypes are harmful. Maybe history wasn’t your thing in school, but it is important. Do some soul searching with Google and Wikipedia. They can help.
This year, and forevermore, just say no to blackface. Really, would you want to insult your pal Bey in that way? I sure hope not.
Now that you know why you say no to blackface, it’s your job to go inform others. You might see someone wearing blackface at a Halloween party or in costume around the neighborhood. Take them into the bathroom, wash their face, and give them a much needed lesson on history and racism. Some people need an education and sadly had no one in their lives challenged their beliefs. Be that amazing person for them. It’s a tough conversation, but a necessary one.
Now go have a safe, and smart, Halloween!