We should all be outraged but not surprised. It's not even Halloween yet and the pictures of blackface are flooding all my social media networks. It makes you wonder if this used to happen all the time but only now has it been brought to light so many times since the world became smaller with outlets like Facebook and Instagram. Three questions have been floating in my mind after this weekend: Why are people so ignorant to the taboo of blackface? When did blackface become so popular? Is blackface the new Black?
There was a point where these incidents would predominantly occur on college campuses and they were dealt with by administration and the (sometimes angry) student body. In some cases, these incidents have been treated as teachable moments, where Caucasian students learn the history of this distasteful tradition, a lesson overlooked by early education. It seems like the time for such lessons keep getting pushed back until an incident actually occurs, which makes me question our educational system.
We have a black president and yet some people don't seem to have the decency to acknowledge something as wrong as caricaturizing Trayvon Martin? Is there no empathy (at the very least) for a set of parents who have lost their son? Or are we, as a society, becoming more desensitized to things like this when you have politicians within the GOP party calling Obamacare "the worst law since slavery"? Strangely this makes me think about the Washington Redskins' (along with the Cleveland Indians) refusal to change their moniker. There is no thought to the subliminal message that states; it's ok to brand yourself as a different skin color.
So no, there is no surprise that people of color have to prepare themselves every Halloween for ignorance to rear its head. It seems like many people cannot wait to be a Mexican with a huge sombrero with a taco in hand or Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black (despite many other talented white characters on that show) complete with painted skin. Unfortunately, many people think that this is funny or that they are somehow honoring those they dress up like. Every year we go through this and we have to educate people why this wrong.
There is no honor in painting one's self darker when Black people are subjected to stop and frisk laws. There is nothing funny about Trayvon Martin and the controversial acquittal of George Zimmerman. The world is too small these days to think that pictures on social media outlets won't circulate the world in a matter of minutes. Then again, perhaps getting attention is the real goal of all of this. But who pays a price for that attention? The person who loses their job and has their phone numbers published, or the integrity of people who are constantly subjected to racial discrimination because of color of their skin?
The joke is on you for thinking that blackface is the new Black.