I really, REALLY didn't want to post about Blackface Christmas this year, but after this, I couldn't help myself. This morning, Thought Catalog posted a completely tone deaf piece on Julianne Hough's blackface misstep, written by one Kelly Rheel. (I'm not linking to it because fuck TC) In the piece, Kelly argued that Julianne's blackface "isn't really blackface" because blackface only
apparently, and anything less is just "trying to have some fun." She also argued that though she is white, and doesn't understand the black experience, she didn't think this was an appropriate time for racial outrage. She posits that the
was problematic and racist (it most definitely was), but not
. She was dressing as a
Yes. That happened.
There's so much privilege to unpack when it comes to a white woman deciding that she has the ability to decided what should or shouldn't be offensive to people who have been and continue to be systematically oppressed. It almost pained to even think about how anyone is that wilfully obtuse and thinks nothing of sharing such an asinine perspective online with her name attached.
But I had to try. So I left the following comment:
"OH. I see, YOU, a white person, gets to tell ME a black person, what is or isn't offensive to ME and mine. Ok. Cool.
It's not like black(brown/yellow/red)face has historically been used to parody, vilify and deny access to minorities. It's not as though white people literally murdered and colonized minorities, took what they pleased and then told us what was left was worthless. It's not as though they did all that, and then mocked us by turning us into caricatures.
White girl, do not start. People who wear blackface are racist. People who defend blackface are racist. People who refuse to understand and acknowledge the painful history that this tradition recalls for MILLIONS of people are racist.
You my dear, are racist. That's cool I guess. But don't pretend you're not. Wave your stripes high and proud so I know to stay the fuck away from you with my black bodied self, because you clearly think your desire to "have some fun" is more important than my right to not feel threatened. When you wear blackface, you perpetuate racist ideology. It's that simple. You would know this if you'd spend -10 seconds reading up on the thousands of words that have been published about this, rather than spewing your mindless drivel on the internet just because you felt like it.
The information is out there. The answers to ALL your questions are out there, in plain English. The fact that you didn't even bother to go find them tells me that you simply do not care about the dignity of people who don't look like you.
Blackness is not a FUCKING COSTUME. It is an identity that has very real consequences for the people who can't take their blackness off at the end of the day with some makeup remover. Like institutionalized racism, job discrimination, police brutality, DEATH. FUCK YOU for trying to defend this shit. Seriously."
The thing is, it's not about Julianne trying to portray a specific character. That doesn't matter. People can dress as characters of other races without being even the least bit offensive.
But what people often fail to realize is that one of the main benefits of whiteness, is
That means that being white means that you will be judged on your own merits. It means that one white person's actions do not reflect on all white people. That's why 90% of school shooters and spree killers in the US are white men, and yet white men in general are not pathologized.
Minorities are not afforded that privilege. For a person in non-white skin, everything they do is a reflection of the whole. It's not right, but it's the way the world works in a white supremacist society. It means that when
opened fire in Virginia Tech, Koreans felt
on his behalf. It means that when radical Muslims devised a plan to bomb the World Trade Centre, American Muslims faced a decade (and counting) of a new wave of anti-Islamic bigotry. It means that innocent black teenagers can be murdered in cold-blood because of one racist vigilante and then have his death be found legally justified.
Minority people do not have the privilege of individuality. So when white people create and disseminate racist portrayals of people with non-white skin, they are contributing to the idea that that representation is indicative of the whole. They are saying that their ridiculous caricature can be applied to all people of that race.
It doesn't matter that Julianne didn't meant to offend. It matters that she propped up and perpetuated a system that was intentionally created to dehumanize PoC (black people specifically in this case) and justify the atrocities that white people subjected them to. It is a painful reminder of a time when black people were considered subhuman, and doing it in 2013 says that those beliefs are still alive and well. It is
okay to make a mockery of someone's identity, and blackness IS AN IDENTITY. Regardless of intent, it is not okay to treat the very signifier of the person that I am, as a disposable prop for your enjoyment.
At this point, I'm inclined to side with Ebony's Jamilah Lemieux
"This is not a case of a missing “sensitivity chip.” This is someone weighing your Black history and your Black pain versus their own sense of folly and choosing themselves. And that, beloveds, is what White privilege is all about. “I hear what you all are saying, but at the end of the day, I come first.”"
At this point, the problems with black face have been well documented and the answers to literally every question a white person could ever have are available with a simple google search. For someone to continue to fight for their "right" to dehumanize another person means that they simply do not care that they are causing pain to people who have frankly, suffered enough.
Blackface is racist.
It will always be racist.
There is simply no more discussion to be had on the matter.