General Question

pleiades's avatar

What do you think about Nick Cannon using, "White Face" to promote his new album?

Asked by pleiades (6571points) March 24th, 2014

Purely publicity stunt? Or political statement? Or both?

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7 Answers

SavoirFaire's avatar

Given that the album title is “White People Party Music,” I think it must be at least partially publicity stunt. That said, there have been more than a few incidents of blackface over the past year (as well as a few redface incidents), each coming with assurances from the perpetrators and their defenders that it’s really no big deal and that everyone should get over it. Some even go so far as to say it’s racist or oppressive if we don’t allow blackface.

In light of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if both the album title and Nick Cannon’s use of whiteface have a political element to them. If it’s really no big deal, it shouldn’t be news. But it is news. Ergo, it cannot be no big deal. And anyone offended by Cannon’s use of whiteface cannot consistently defend blackface—which means there are probably a few people right now with egg on their faces.

CWOTUS's avatar

On the other hand, on its face (no pun intended), it is no big deal. The fact that it’s “news” says more about “the news” than it does about a funny PR stunt and parody of what white folks did in a demeaning and unfunny way a hundred years ago (and less).

No, it’s not at all racist, although it does make a parody or satire about racial attitudes and generalizations.

I can defend blackface, too, depending on how it’s done, such as in Tropic Thunder in 2008. The movie itself wasn’t the greatest comedy, but it did have its moments, and I found it humorously ironic that a white guy in blackface was pretending to play a black actor, instead of mocking an entire racial group. (On the other hand, using Italian actors to portray Native Americans and Mexicans in the 70s was closer to the way blackface was used years ago in that unfunny way.)

“News”, hah!

SavoirFaire's avatar

@CWOTUS I agree that it is, in fact, no big deal. I also agree that it’s not racist. But it is being treated as news, and that tells us about more than just the news. After all, what counts as news is in part dependent on what consumers of the news want and react to. This is one of those things, which tells us something about society (the consumers) as well.

As for the “blackface” in Tropic Thunder, it was clearly done in the same satirical spirit as Cannon’s whiteface and without many of the most offensive features of traditional blackface. As such, it is not an instance of the same racist tradition (meaning that defending the makeup used in the film is not quite defending blackface more generally).

CWOTUS's avatar

I can’t imagine anyone would make a generalized defense of blackface as racial mockery – the way it was developed in the USA – but as an “art form” (in a very broad definition of “art”, meaning “a means of communication”, even if the original communication by that mode was dishonest, mean-spirited and vile) it’s interesting to see how it can now be modified to be a bridge to racial understanding through humor, parody and satire.

But I still think you give far too much credit to “what consumers of the news want”. Granted, some people do react to it, because it’s put in front of them and they’re told (or expected) to react. Some people want to use any perceived wedge as a means to some other end of their own, which does not involve “racial harmony” or even “peaceful segregation”. They’ll drive that wedge between groups just so they can improve their own power situation.

But you know that; I’m not telling you anything new there.

In the same way, I think, we can appreciate spirituals, the blues and jazz as musical forms even when we consider their source, and the fact that if it weren’t for that source, those forms may not even exist, and certainly wouldn’t exist as we know them. The music isn’t worth the suffering that led to it, but the music does have value.

pleiades's avatar

It’s a strange subject that’s for sure. I knew this white lady who was greatly offended when a white guy, (a millionaire) showed up at an event as Tiger Woods. (the even was for Good Guys where a bunch of millionaires and billionaires even get together and raffle off money to charities and such)

Anyways the white woman was offended that the guy dressed up as Tiger Woods and black faced.

I guess the origins of black faced were used in a derogatory manner?

CWOTUS's avatar

Check out “minstrel shows”, and you can find out.

DominicX's avatar

Definitely a publicity stunt, but I really don’t care. He doesn’t need to “publicly apologize” or anything like that. He himself said he found Robert Downey Jr. in blackface to be hilarious and commented that there was a difference between “humor and hatred”.

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