Black Face and Blind Rage

2014-08-07 08:31

In my gender equality endeavors I have always sought to reach out to men, to make them understand feminism and help them realize that archaic discriminatory systems of valuation have the same origin and affect us all. As much as we sometimes wish it were true, no man is an island and we need to continue to find ways to meet each other in the middle.

Now in a post-racist, post-sexist and to a smaller extent, post-hetero-normative society we do not expect bouts of racism, sexism and the like to occur. Given the time lapse between history and the present we are expected to know better, and yet this is simply not forthcoming. From a feminist perspective, I have sat with men who openly shun the need for feminism and yet when I tell them stories of Arabic fathers burying their daughters alive out of fear that women bring curse and adversity they are shocked that sexism runs that deep.

The last thing a guy who is so entrenched in privilege needs is another angry, feminist mob down his throat demanding rights that, as far as he can tell, they already have! That is why I deeply believe that feminism is dormant without the support of men and that black consciousness remains ineffective without the surrender of white privilege. The last thing a privileged white person needs is another angry, black mob down his throat demanding rights that, as far as he can tell, they already have!

In light of the recent black face saga at TUKS, an opportunity has been missed on social media to get to the root of the problem. Emotions ran sky-high, producing nothing but conflict over something Team A swears is wrong, but simply can't or won't explain to Team B why. From all the tweets, blogs and Facebook posts I sifted through, not a single person addressed the root of why blackface is fundamentally wrong.

Blackface was a feature of minstrel comedy and music shows in slave-trade America. White actors would paint their faces black, appropriate "plantation dialect" and in layman's terms, act a damn fool. It was during the minstrel sensation that derogatory words like "coon" became mainstream and common practice. The racist stereotyping of black people spilled over into cartoons too. The devil's advocate may present 1 of 3 cases.

1. "But black people WERE slaves, ARE maids, etc. We are not mocking society, this is simply what it is."

I agree, there are more black maids than white maids. This is how society really is. Society also caused this statistic because that is ALL, for a very long time, that black women were allowed to do. Perhaps if black women chose housework from an array of other opportunities they would have no right to be offended. But they didn't. And many still don't. And that is why this argument must be dismissed with immediate effect.

2. "But Leon Schuster..."

It may surprise you to consider Leon Schuster as a racist. Some have postulated that his use of blackface is admissible because he portrays a variety of characters of colour. This is extra-racist, because blackface was used to portray Mexicans and Native Americans in the same derogatory fashion as with the black slave population of America. To suggest that it's ok if you mock coloured and Indian people too, makes racism qualify only if it is aimed at black people. Do I really need to explain why that's wrong?

3. "Fine, so what about white chicks??"

The Waynans brother's White Chicks comedy will never be offensive. Let me illustrate once more with sexism. Have you ever been told you run like a girl? How did it make you feel? Have you ever been told, even as a woman "wow, you're the man"? You knew that was a compliment. It's time those who are privileged by systems of valuation to own up and become sensitive to symbols and representations of those who have experienced discrimination. Remember that the school of white supremacy dictates that white is normative, so the more people of colour emulate whiteness, the better.

I encourage you to have a white friend read this today, and if they learn something then you too would have learned something. We will never achieve equality of any kind if we get caught up in emotions and abandon our reasoning. Let's do better.

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2010-11-21 18:15

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