Dear White People came out in theaters over the weekend and was so full of truth. The movie hit close to home for many black students on a predominately white college campus, displaying race relations with humor. It’s a satirical film with a breath of fresh air amongst the Tyler Perry films and all those movies where Kevin Hart plays the same character again and again. Though Dear White People had its flaws, it’s definitely a must-see.
The climax of the movie takes place at a race-themed party, where white students are invited to “unleash their inner negro,” and dress in blackface, afros, and obnoxiously large chains—like they’d just walked out of the “All Gold Everything” video (thanks, Trinidad James).
Sadly, these parties aren’t uncommon on college campuses, and ignorant white people party in the most insulting outfits they can find. Somehow, the conversation always comes back to blackface.
We haven’t even made it to Halloween yet and people are already donning blackface. Recently, cosplay enthusiast Kira Markeljc received loads of backlash for darkening her skin to cosplay Michonne from The Walking Dead.
So people began to question whether cosplay is an acceptable time to darken your skin for a black character.
Cosplayers often paint their skin to become characters like the Hulk or Mystique. However, painting your face blue or green is not the same as painting it in someone else’s race.
Blackface is rooted in our nation’s racist past. It was used to mock black people in minstrel shows. A blackface character made fun of slaves and free blacks of the 19th century. These minstrel shows cemented and proliferated racist images of black people around the world. And much of those ideas about black people from those minstrel shows still exist today.
So yes, hundreds of years later, blackface is still insulting.
I’m sure the cosplayer didn’t mean to insult anyone—but she did. Her intentions mean very little and her ignorance doesn’t make her innocent—especially considering she was not at all sorry after people called her out on it. She could have easily played Michonne without the paint, and not resurrected the ghosts of America’s racist past (and present).
So for the record, no—it is never okay to wear blackface. Not for Halloween. Not for cosplay. Not for anything.
Oh and dear white people, you can also stop dressing up as Native Americans, Latinos, and any other race or ethnicity for Halloween; it’s just as racist.
P.S.: Go see Dear White People. Let me know what you think of the movie.