Social Question

kritiper's avatar

Where do we draw the line on "blackface?"?

Asked by kritiper (15739points) 2 weeks ago

Al Rokker dresses up as a white guy but doesn’t paint his face white and no one says anything.
Some teachers here in Idaho dress up in serapes and sombreros, others as a wall on the border and people complain. (They didn’t paint their faces!!)
On TV is a commercial where two people are looking at a pizza baking in a oven. The guy is wearing a red and green (with white eagle) Mexican wrestling mask and no one breathes a word. (Obviously, his face isn’t painted, but it is covered with a Mexican mask complete with Mexican colors.)
So where do you think the line of what is acceptable and what isn’t be drawn? When has complaining on the subject of “blackface” gone too far?

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36 Answers

SergeantQueen's avatar

When you are trying to be racist

SergeantQueen's avatar

Not every country considers blackface racist. People in Russia do it a lot and they aren’t doing it in a racist/rude way. Cultures think of things differently and America considers it taboo whereas other places don’t care (even the people of color)

elbanditoroso's avatar

Anti-blackface is censorship, pure and simple.

Yes, I thoroughly understand the history of blackface and why it is considered offensive. Yes, it is racist, and yes, it is demeaning to blacks, and yes it persistently continues a stereotype. All of which are offensive.

But it’s censorship (or self censorship) just the same. The problem is the old slippery-slope issue. If you ban blackface, it’s not a huge step to ban other things – maybe jokes and shows that make fun of various religions (Judaism and the hooked nose stereotype, Islam for their dress, and so on). That leads potential censorship (or self-censorship) based on religion in general, except for ‘the favored religion’, which in the US is Christianity.

You can go on from there. If certain religions are to be considered off limits to jokes and entertainment because of the potential for offense, then the next step is beliefs and politics. And that becomes a truly scary situation, where people are censoring themselves for political reasons. So much for the free exchange of culture and ideas.

Either EVERYTHING should be censored (which is truly awful idea) or NOTHING should be censored. Anything else walks down the pernicious road of the thought police.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

The question is then why are we sensitive about certain things and not others. It appears like these days that taking offense is a form of power and control in much the same way as making offensive is.

canidmajor's avatar

@elbanditoroso, I didn’t see anywhere in the Q a mention of “banning”.
And, respectfully, I can’t agree that “self-censorship” is a bad thing. It just means not spewing a stream-of-consciousness blather without regard for anyone else.

notnotnotnot's avatar

@elbanditoroso – As @canidmajor points out, you have appeared to provide an answer to a different question. This is not a question about bans or even censorship.

@kritiper – I believe what you’re asking is what may or may not be offensive. If you understand the history of blackface and why it is deeply offensive, then the question becomes a very easy one.

zenvelo's avatar

Al Roker wasn’t in “whte face”. He was dressed as a character in a movie! He was no more offensive than the guy I saw in the Castro district dressed as Wonder Woman.

@elbanditoroso I will agree that censorship is wrong. But if one says or performs something offensive, then be prepared to face the backlash and condemnation of being called out as a racist troll. Free speech means I get to call someone a racist fuckwad and not be silenced.

ucme's avatar

Ooh, I think the racist fuckers draw the line mostly around the lips don’t they?

elbanditoroso's avatar

@notnotnotnot – I see that one potentially leads to another (enforced political correctness becomes censorship). You are free to disagree.

@zenvelo – I’m fine with being condemned if that’s what happens. My objections to blackface are not on racial grounds, they are on civil liberties grounds.

kritiper's avatar

@notnotnotnot I understand the concept of blackface and it’s history. But that isn’t the question.
@zenvelo Yes, Al Rokker didn’t have his face painted. I mentioned that.

Nobody bitched about Al Rokker.
No one is bitching about the guy in the Mexican wrestling mask.
But people are having a fit about the teachers who dress up in Mexican type clothes. (And as a Mexican border wall!)
So there must be a fine point as to what is politically correct and what is not. It seems to be the actual painting of the face, mask or no mask, ethnic clothing or not.
(I think the teachers getting bitched at was wrong and excessive. DEFINEITLY over the top!!)

notnotnotnot's avatar

@kritiper: “I understand the concept of blackface and it’s history. But that isn’t the question.”

Well, that should be a question you ask yourself then.

You’re making this complicated, when it’s quite simple. If you understand why blackface would be offensive, you needn’t try to seek out comparable scenarios to try to see if there is some kind of loophole created via inconsistencies in application. The fact that you are trying to find an “out” should give you some pause.

If you do something that is clearly offensive or insensitive, and it causes a shitstorm, you need to understand why, rather than try to point out other scenarios that you feel are equivalent that had different results.

Why are you complicating this?

Demosthenes's avatar

@kritiper You really can’t see how someone dressing up as a border wall might be construed as offensive?

First of all, “blackface” refers to a specific practice of coloring your face to resemble a black person, it doesn’t mean wearing a wrestling mask. So that wouldn’t even fall under the category of “blackface”. Secondly, you’re referring to different instances that received different amounts of attention. The amount of attention doesn’t necessarily correlate with the (im)morality of the action. When Jane Krakowski did blackface on 30 Rock, it got a lot of attention because it was a popular show on a major network. I thought it was hilarious, other people not so much. Like anything, it depends on context. Is it supposed to be funny? Is it just hateful? Was it actually funny or did it fail?

If you’re hoping there’s some kind of physical line that determines whether it’s perceived as offensive, you’re not going to find it. It’s on a case-by-case basis, like most things.

tinyfaery's avatar

The line is don’t do blackface.

zenvelo's avatar

@kritiper “Nobody bitched about Al Rokker.

Au contraire, mon frere. The media were all upset over it saying he got away with it while Megyn Kelly got in trouble for even questioning it. The press went wild in condemning Roker as taking advantage of his race to be offensive.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@elbanditoroso Remember Dana Carvey on SNL and the church lady? And I’m a Christian. Still funny. How about All in the Family, clearly racist, or Three’s Company, clearly homophobic. There are a ton of examples in the past where the lines were not so rigid.

People have taken the PC thing way too far imo. I bet strangers on the Internet care than any of our personal friends ever have or would.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Wearing blackface and the right to call people n***gers – conservative civil rights issues.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised but when I was a kid racism was receding, not getting celebrated and cheered by half the voters.

kritiper's avatar

@notnotnotnot You’re missing the point of the question.
@Demosthenes I can see why some people would be offended. I can see why anybody might find anything offensive. Some people are like that.

The guy in the wrestler’s mask is about as close to painting his face without applying paint as you can get, but no complaints have I heard about it as yet. There should be a point at which portraying another, any other of any race, is acceptable, without the majority of the public getting their underwear in a knot, and possibly causing those who dress up to lose their jobs, or get suspended.
I think that the actual application of paint is the point that should be considered, and universally accepted, as having crossed the acceptability line. A mask doesn’t do it, neither does a serape, sombrero, or wall costume, as well as anyone dressing up as whoever.

seawulf575's avatar

The fact we have to have questions like this tells me that we, as a society, have lost our sense of humor. We are no longer able to see pretty much anything without being offended.

canidmajor's avatar

The fact that we have questions like this tells me that we, as a society, are starting to become enlightened enough to not feel that everything we want to say out loud is sacred, and that having compassion for others is possible.

notnotnotnot's avatar

@kritiper: ”@notnotnotnot You’re missing the point of the question.”

I’m really not.

tinyfaery's avatar

Do a little research on why people find blackface offensive. Actually read something that isn’t wikipedia or a blog, like a book or a scholarly article.

Blackface isn’t funny. What’s funny about it? Anyone? Or is it the way the person acts while in blackface that’s funny? And then isn’t it harmful stereotypes that are being portrayed, and offensive caricatures that have historically been used to denigrate and discriminate? Uh, yeah.

So many things that were okay in the 70’s and 80’s are just not anymore, and they never should have been. Plus, satirical representations in entertainment are not the same as regular folks painting their faces black and basically performing a minstrel show.

seawulf575's avatar

@canidmajor so let me offer some examples:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_LeJfn_qW0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY0mtHEmtrw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRVqVwGWocM

https://710wor.iheart.com/featured/mark-simone/content/2018-10-29-look-at-lester-holt-wearing-white-face-dressed-as-susan-boyle/

https://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/pictures/today-show-goes-country-for-halloween-2017-see-photos/tktk-27/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wse5lgIDxM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1By6Wj_sAU

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-blackface/robert-downey-jr-s-risky-role-in-tropic-thunder-idUSN1138604020080811

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEp5P_Aq3v4

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but most of these people caught exactly zero crap for dressing up as someone of a different race. And some were very recent examples. Many of these were marginally funny. But all were leftists so they got a pass. Funny how that works, isn’t it? But honestly, if enlightened means we can’t laugh at ourselves then I would say we aren’t enlightened, we are repressed. I’m part Irish, yet I don’t get offended by Irish jokes or stereotypes. I’m white, yet Lester Holt dressing in white face or Eddie Murphy doing white face to make fun of white person stereotypes does not offend me. I can see the humor in it.

kritiper's avatar

It can’t be helped that some overly sensitive types will always over react.
Like if a white person dresses up as a Native American with lion clout, feather headdress and war paint, (Note: WAR PAINT)
BUT NOT DARKEN SKIN COLOR OVERALL TO RESEMBLE AN ACTUAL NATIVE AMERICAN, which should be acceptable.

notnotnotnot's avatar

@seawulf575: “I’m white…”

Yes, you are.

canidmajor's avatar

Oh, good grief, @seawulf575, I was simply commenting on your statement about our society having “lost our sense of humor”, that’s all. I personally don’t give a crap about you trying to prove something with a bunch of YouTube videos that I have no intention of looking at.
<eyeroll>

I get that you still want to say anything you like about anybody without repercussion, but that has nothing to do with your political leanings, it just means you’re an ass.

And I’m out.

JLeslie's avatar

I heard recently about a white woman getting fired for dressing up as a black celebrity for Halloween. I also vaguely remember a few years ago someone coming under fire for dressing as a black TV character. Both women made all of their skin that was showing “black,” not just their face like the original days of “black face”.

I also have told jellies the story of one time I was watching Toddlers in Tiaras and a young girl did her talent doing a Beyoncé song. She dressed as Beyoncé, and she kept asking her mom for more spray tan to get closer to Beyoncé’s skin color. This little girl loved Beyoncé, that’s why she wanted to emulate her and look like her.

Are all three of those situation equal and all offensive?

I think if African Americans are offended by all of these things then we should not do it. I would err on the side of being kind, and just don’t do it, but I do think none of these situations were the people necessarily racist, even though it certainly can be called racist actions. I personally wish that everything was so equal, and that America didn’t have such a horrible past, that none of the situations would be seen as it feel racist, but that’s just not the case.

When women dress up as Lucy they wear a red wig, is making your skin color similar to a well know celeb or character really any different? For now it still is.

seawulf575's avatar

@notnotnotnot yes I am. You think there is something wrong with being white?

seawulf575's avatar

@canidmajor the youtube videos show several things: (1) that pretending to be someone of a different color is part of humor in today’s world. (2) that anyone with a sense of humor can still laugh at it. (3) it is done by black people and white people and (4) it only seems to be offensive when a white conservative does it. You don’t hear the same outcry when a liberal does it, regardless of skin color. That pretty much cements my comment that we have lost our sense of humor. We have allowed political viewpoints to repress us. So yes, it has everything to do with political leanings. That doesn’t mean I’m not an ass, I can be a huge ass when I try. But making an observation isn’t actual cause for being an ass. You just get uncomfortable by the direction this took and what it says about your own political viewpoints.

zenvelo's avatar

@seawulf575 “You don’t hear the same outcry when a liberal does it, regardless of skin color.

Except WIll Farrell was called out, as was Julianne Hough, Ted Danson, Gigi Hadid and others.

seawulf575's avatar

@zenvelo so let me ask…were they fired? Were they blackballed from working? For example, Megyn Kelly made a comment about blackface and was fired for it. She merely asked what was racist about appearing in blackface on Halloween. Did these liberals see the same lash back from their transgressions? The simple answer is…no, they weren’t. so they did not hear the same outcry as when a conservative even mentions blackface. Forget actually posing in makeup of another race. Can you imagine the outrage if a conservative dressed in blackface as Sarah Silverman did? She got “that’s bad. That’s offensive”. If a conservative did it, there would be screams for termination and banning them from further acting events.

tinyfaery's avatar

Oh, so now “liberals” are responsible for what NBC did. <eyeroll>

seawulf575's avatar

@tinyfaery in a way…yes. NBC did their racist acts because they knew liberals would not scream about them. MAYBE if you idiots would actually hold EVERYONE to the same standard you could be taken seriously. Your arguments would certainly hold a whole lot more water. Kinda hard to be taken seriously when you scream about one person’s actions when you have laughed off and even made excuses for the exact same actions from another person that happens to abide by your liberal ideals.

tinyfaery's avatar

How many times do I have to tell this to you idiot conservatives? I am not a liberal. I can be an idiot at times. I didn’t vote for Hillary. I didn’t like Obama.

Get a grip and a life. Must be miserable to be you, constantly having to invent things to be upset about, mired down in hypocrisy and fear. It’s almost like you see in others what you know to be true about yourself. I think that might be a psychological condition.

notnotnotnot's avatar

@seawulf575: ”@notnotnotnot yes I am. You think there is something wrong with being white?”

Of course not. But there is something wrong with white dudes deciding what is and isn’t offensive to people who are black.

seawulf575's avatar

Ahh…I see. So where is your outrage against Eddie Murphy or Lester Holt or even Hoda Kobt? They all dressed up as white people and decided it wouldn’t be offensive to them. So what is it…you only hate white people? You want to hold white people to a higher standard? Or doesn’t your liberal handbook cover these talking points?

Response moderated (Personal Attack)

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