General Question

quilm's avatar

Do you find this offensive or racist?

Asked by quilm (72points) July 3rd, 2010

In my local carnival for two floats one of the Jackson five and anther of Jazz musicians in the 50s they blacked up, would you be offended by this?

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34 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

It’s hard to discern the intent without seeing the actual floats, but I do wonder why they didn’t use Black people.

quilm's avatar

No one black volunteering for the people who made the floats I’d guess.

Andreas's avatar

I with @dpworkin on this. This is a very subjective situation, which depends a lot on personal experience. I, personally, don’t find it offensive, but then again I’ve never suffered such things as racial slurs, etc.

It may very well be that the oranisers and float operators just never considered the possibility of this being an issue with anyone.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

If the theme of all the floats was “Music Through the Ages” and the intent and execution was a historical portrayal of the groups, and treated by the participants as a character role, then, no, I would not find that offensive. The ideal would be as @dpworkin stated, to use black people on the floats.

Was the stage make-up well done, or did they look offensive?

quilm's avatar

Where I live is a largely white suburb, it would had been very difficult I guess to find black people to take such roles. Of course it wasn’t meant to be offensive.

I know some people get offended by this E.G

Personally there are many able actors/people playing disable people, men pretending to be women, rich to be poor, etc.

quilm's avatar

In a few days it should be in the local paper I’ll send you all a link to it then.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@quilm, that link IS offensive. It’s an “interpretation” of a perception of the Jackson Five. It’s intended to evoke a laugh.

And the make-up is not well done, neither is the acting.

cheebdragon's avatar

Maybe they couldn’t find black performers….....then again, that might have been considered racist also…...

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@cheebdragon, that thought struck me, too. “Excuse me, our group doesn’t include blacks, because we don’t know any blacks personally, but could you be on our float so we won’t look racist. We don’t want you to join our group, just help us out here.”

That’s bad.

quilm's avatar

I asked everyone there and no one even thought about it and none found it racist. I was shocked when I seen that video before and heard people were offended by it.

Personally I don’t like people who get offended on other people behalf.

SmashTheState's avatar

It may or may not be racist, but it’s certainly insensitive to the point of ignorance.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It’s a costume, and two of the actors needed to wear make-up in order to play the part. Did they sing live or play recorded music? That might have been a factor in who was chosen.

As long as it was tastefully done, there shouldn’t be any problem with it. The litmus test is if their float mates had an issue with it or not.

penelopepitstop's avatar

No, it’s part of the ACT. Look at the Tin Man on OZ. Look at the MIMEs.

cockswain's avatar

Probably the real black people thought it was too lame to participate in.

cheebdragon's avatar

Im offended by sunless tanning lotion, but it’s more of a “There is a reason people aren’t naturally orange, it looks stupid” kind of way…..

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Wait…clarification please. Were 2 white people wearing make-up or were all of the people on the floats white and wearing make-up? The answer probably won’t change my answer…I’m just curious. The way the description reads isn’t crystal clear.

@penelopepitstop I had a similar thought. Who knows who is really in that Mickey Mouse costume when you meet him.

quilm's avatar

For the Jackson five I think there were five but it may have been a lot more, for the other float everyone had back faces.

aprilsimnel's avatar

There was a nuanced interview on NPR about this subject recently.

For me, it’s all about context. Is the person in the racial drag just putting it on to be like, “Hahaha! Look at these low-class funny beings who do things that I don’t do and behave differently than I do, so they’re stupid!”? That’s what most ”-faces” were for, even in the recent past – to put down other people.

If it’s clear that a person is portraying a person, a character who is relatable as a human being (and I’m not talking as if its got to be all deep like Othello or something), and not just a bag of minstrel show stereotypes, not acting like a buffoon like those Aussies on that talent show, then that’s a different thing. Context.

quilm's avatar

Don’t dames in pantomime do the same thing but to women? They dress as women and stereotypically act dumb?

Also those people off that show were black well Indian.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Yeah, it is. I’m not a fan of any broad comedy that’s solely about being mean and/or putting entire groups of people down. ::shrugs:: I don’t know what else to tell you.

perspicacious's avatar

I continue to hear that this is offensive. I don’t personally understand why, but if it is truly offensive to black people, that’s enough to not do it.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I’m not black, and I find it offensive. Humor that derived from mimicking a group to which you do not belong can easily cross a line and become mockery and derision, and is all of a sudden not-so-funny at all.

Seek's avatar

I agree that the offense is in intent.

This is a type of theater. Sometimes, you don’t have a person in your troupe that fits the exact description of the character – so a white girl puts on thick eyeliner and dark foundation to play Cleopatra, or an Indian guy wears a red wig and light foundation to play Leif Erikson. It happens.

If you’re playing the part, it shouldn’t be offensive. If you’re turning historical figures into satire, I can see where the offense would happen.


No. I’d find it funny instead.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Did I miss something else? I don’t see anything about the floats and the people on them attempting to use humor. As long as it was done tastefully, I look upon it as a tribute to a group (Jackson 5) and some talented performers from the ‘50s who continue to inspire musicians of different races.

Those that question whether the two floats and their acts are potentially offensive to the black community deserve some commendation for caring about the feelings of others. I think, sometimes though, we can become overly sensitive. At least, I’ve found myself guilty of it.

Coloma's avatar

My perception is that they are attempting to emulate those themes and if, as has been mentioned, no african americans are available..well..I see no harm in their attempts to depict some sort of authenticity.

Quite frankly the PC movement has gotten a little out of hand IMO.

I set my pet goose up in a manger last year for a humorous holiday photo of him as baby Jesus…lol

With the neighbors donkeys and sheep looking on…it was quite the production. haha

Most people I sent it to thought it hilarious..a few were not amused..oh well,.lol

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Coloma Ah, that reminds me…I portrayed King Herod in an outdoor living Nativity scene held by our church every year. It was 1980, and I am female. I took the part seriously. The youth group leader allowed it, and as far as I know, no one complained.

Coloma's avatar


Haha… that’s great!
I am all for fun and creativity..some people will complain about ANYTHING.
A phrase I like is he/she is ’ a grievance looking for a cause.’ lol

quilm's avatar

Who was offend or are you being offend on behalf of other people? I’ve asked this question on another website and not one black person found it offensive.

It reminds me when certain counsels don’t put up Christmas decorations as Muslins maybe offend but on asking almost literally no Muslims are offended we all got offended on their behalf.

syzygy2600's avatar

This is not racism, this is trivial. Everything is about context, this clearly was not meant to belittle or demean anyone. Even if it was designed to evoke a laugh, why shouldn’t it be funny? Racial humor is not the same thing as racist humor.

SmashTheState's avatar

@quilm It’s called “solidarity.” It means, “Your problems are mine, and my problems are yours.” Or, as we Wobblies like to put it, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

quilm's avatar

But no one was offended.

Coloma's avatar


I wouldn’t call that definition solidarity, I’d call it codependancy. lol

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m curious as to your geographic location. It just isn’t a cool thing to do any more. It’s a throw back to turn of the century (20th century) when they needed black actors on stage, but they weren’t allowed to be on stage so they had to “black out” white people.

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