“We’re a culture, not a costume”

Posted on October 28, 2013

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Protest against stereotyping African Americans

Protest against stereotyping African Americans

 

 

UPDATED TO ADD:

I mean, WTF is wrong with some grown folks? Before I get to Julianne Hough’s big ass gaffe, take a look at these coaches who decided it was cool to go in blackface to a Halloween party (note to those who think its somehow okay to darken or lighten one’s face to portray another race. IT’S OFFENSIVE, and no amount of back-peddling or excuses like “It’s Halloween!” means the offender gets a pass. Please understand, I think that people have every right to dress in the character of their choice. However, once they reach for the makeup to either darken or even lighten as if to say “Look at me! I’ve become a black person!” or “Look at me! I’ve turned into a white person!” then common sense should kick in. Back away from the makeup table and ask yourself, is this really necessary?

Well, I guess it would be, if the intent is mockery. Because it sure isn’t flattery.

 

A couple of high school coaches and two others made up in Nu skol blackface

A couple of high school coaches and two others made up in Nu skol blackface. Photo from ibtimes site

 

 

Link where photo found:

http://www.ibtimes.com/coaches-dress-cool-runnings-blackface-costume-sparks-outrage-photos-1448450

 

 

Be sure to read the comments defending these idiots, since their punishment was suspension (the school employees, not sure about the others) yet for their defenders, even that was way too much. It’s too bad there’s no one standing up for the kids who’ll always have to wonder if these guys ever singled them out or made them feel less than, simply because of their skin color. Because thinking its okay to mock another culture like this, brings up troubling questions as to these guys being partial, or even their hidden biases. Thankfully, some detractors realize how misguided, insulting and hurtful their appearance was:

Link: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Serra-High-School-Officials-to-Address-Coaches-Blackface-Appearance-230244431.html

 

 

Also this week, former dancer and some time actress Julianne Hough decided to dress up as her favorite actress from the show Orange is the New Black, Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren played by Uzo Aduba.

 

Julianne Hough wanted attention. And now she's got it

Julianne Hough wanted attention. And now she’s got it

 

 

From the darkening of her skin and eyebrows, to knotting and also darkening her hair, Julianne decided to totally “inhabit” the character.

 

Julianne Hough's version of blackface

Julianne Hough’s version of blackface

 

 

What’s ironic is that while the rest of her friends were also dressed as characters from the show, Julianne took it too a whole ‘nother level.

Another level of offensiveness.

It’s being reported that while Hough walked into the party in blackface (or brownface, take your pick) she wisely wiped it off during the course of the evening. And I have to believe before she even walked out of the house for the evening, someone, possibly among her friends mentioned how the coloring of her face could be taken.

Hough issued an apology after feeling the backlash:

 

Julianne Hough tweets an apology

Julianne Hough tweets an apology

 

 

Much like others who don blackface, brownface, redface, yellowface and even whiteface, Hough wants it known that her “intent” wasn’t to be disrespectful.

BULL. SHIT. I submit that Hough knew exactly what she was doing. It’s just that she figured it would be funny, and since there’s no hard and fast rule against darkening or lightening one’s face, I mean, what’s the big deal?

 

To no one’s surprise, Hough’s brother Derek has issued some sort of “but she’s really sweet” excuse for his sister:

“She’s so apologetic. She’s so so sorry and I just hope that we can all forgive her and move on,” he said.  “She’s my little baby sister and she’s the sweetest thing ever. She is just beyond beside herself… Obviously, it wasn’t her brightest moment in her life, but hopefully we can move on.”

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/29/derek-hough-blackface_n_4175160.html

 

 

Other apologists have jumped to Hough’s defense, giving the standard BS excuses like “she’s young, she didn’t know about the history of blackface” to “but the Wayan brothers did a whole film in whiteface, and we didn’t object!”

I don’t give a shit what the Wayans did. I didn’t go see White Girls, and when it came on cable I changed the channel. “White Girls” in no shape or form makes up for the centuries of blacks and other people of color being portrayed like this:

 

One of the most "Beloved" entertainers, Al Jolson doing a parody of a black male, singing to his "Mammy" in blackface

One of the most “Beloved” entertainers, Al Jolson doing a parody of a black male, singing to his “Mammy” in blackface

 

 

Al Jolson, a beloved American entertainer in blackface singing about his "Mammy"

Al Jolson, a beloved American entertainer in blackface singing about his “Mammy”

 

 

And this:

 

The creators of the radio show portraying Amos and Andy in blackface

The creators of the radio show portraying Amos and Andy in blackface

 

 

It should be noted that during old skol blackface, segregated times, actual African Americans were expected to behave like the stereotypes created for them. Thus, icons like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were born:

 

Everybody's favorite "Aunt", Aunt Jemima, still "large and in charge" even today

Everybody’s favorite “Aunt”, Aunt Jemima, still “large and in charge” even today

 

 

So when I’m asked why I have utter distain for The Help, especially the caricatured black characters, it’s because I recognized the domestics in the film and novel were really MAMMIES, not resilient maids.

To quote Actress Viola Davis, “Why do I have to play the Mammy?” – quote from July 2011 issue of Essence Magazine:

 

 

Why do I have to play the mammy

 

 

So while the publisher and film producers continued to spin the tale of “sassy” Minny, “docile” Aibilene and “loyal” Constantine as honorable characters (much like advertisers tried to convince black folks that “sassy” Aunt Jemima wasn’t a caricature, and that Amos ‘N Andy weren’t offensive, but authentic, because the writers had been around black people and “studied” our ways:

 

The Pittsburgh Press Jul 28,1929 article on Amos 'n Andy

The Pittsburgh Press Jul 28,1929 article on Amos ‘n Andy

 

 

Instead of a Mammy Monument in our national’s capital (proposed and almost passed in 1923. For more information, see this post) we now have The Help on paper and celluloid.

 

More recently, mis-steps have been made when other celebrities try to get into the “act” of becoming another culture:

 

Ashton Kutcher in Brownface ad that was pulled

Ashton Kutcher in Brownface ad that was pulled

 

 

Or even local theater:

 

Brownface in action during a production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Brownface in action during a production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood

 

 

And this:

 

These people thought dressing as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmeran would be hilarious. Only no one is laughing, and now neither are they.

These people thought dressing as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmeran would be hilarious. Only no one is laughing, And now, neither are they.

 

 

Or this, which reduced blacks to a fashion accessory, per Dolche and Gabbana :

 

Jemima Jewelry

Jemima Jewelry

 

 

 

Jemima Jewelry closeup

Jemima Jewelry close up

 

 

Fashion Designer from Dolce and Gabbana dons old skol blackface at party called "Disco Africa"

Fashion Designer from Dolce and Gabbana dons old skol blackface at party called “Disco Africa”

 

 

Read more about this “party” here, though a warn you, a shower may be needed afterward in order to wash away the stench:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/28/fashion-designer-blackface-halloween-party_n_4170014.html

 

 

And this book promo, for a completely misguided and offensive self-pubbed novel that shall not be named, but the author was publicly stated she was certain that those who didn’t like her book were blacks who hadn’t read it.  So determined that the world view her misunderstood masterpiece, this same author published a sequel, I kid you not:

Sexual chocolate blackface. Yes, this is still "blackface" though the book calls it "midnight luster"

Sexual chocolate blackface. Yes, this is still “blackface” though the book calls it “midnight luster”

Oh, and lest anyone think that its only old people doing this shit, check out this Australian woman’s twenty-first birthday party pics that she’s apparently really proud of, which feature whites in blackface and also wearing KKK outfits. I won’t post them, but you can view them here:

Link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/african-themed-21st-birthday_n_4138573.html

 

 

Now, when confronted, apparently she had the nerve to claim this in response:

“In fact as you can tell from the photos I dressed up as cleopatra, whilst MAJORITY of my guests came as animals, that can be found in africa or wore traditional african clothes or even dressed up as famous people who come from africa. If anything this was to celebrate the amazing country and people.”

Her goal is to teach in Africa, and I truly hope someone has the good sense not to let her into the country.

 

 

I think it’s best that I step away from the computer right now . . .

And I will, however I want to add this. While LL Cool J says to “lighten up” and there are times that I’ve done just that, because quite frankly, when someone decides to portray another culture, the context is important.

So while Robert Downey Jr. did this:

 

Robert Downey Jr. as Lincoln Osirus from the comedy Tropic Thunder

Robert Downey Jr. as Lincoln Osirus from the comedy Tropic Thunder

 

 

Ben Stiller wisely added Brandon T. Jackson to call out Downey’s character:

Brandon T. Jackson as rapper Alpha Chino

Brandon T. Jackson as rapper Alpha Chino

 

 

From the film Tropic Thunder:

Kirk Lazarus: All right fellas, we’re gonna make camp, rest up. Y’all might be in for a treat. You know back before the war broke out I was a saucier in San Antone. I bet I could collar up some of them greens, yeah, some crawfish out the paddy, yo’! Ha! I’m makin’ some crabapples for dessert now, yo! Hell yeah, ha!

Alpa Chino: [mocking Kirk] Hell yeah! Ha! That’s how we all talk? We all talk like dis, “suh”? Yes suh, ha! Yeah mmm-hmm get some crawfish, and some ribs, ha! Ye-aah. You’re Australian! Be Australian! Excuse me, Kangaroo Jack!

[hops away like a kangaroo]

Kirk Lazarus: [confused] I get excited about my foods, man.

 

Readers, I’m interested in what you have to say. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section, or take this short poll:

 

 

 

 

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