Halloween, Blackface & Beatdowns

boo_over.jpgLast month in LA was the re-release of the first "talkie" AKA motion picture with sound and was a historical event for some but not for me. Why? Because the title of this "talkie" is The Jazz Singer starring America's favorite Jewish Blackface performer, Al Jolson. I wasn't having it and made my voice heard in the comments section of the internet post announcing its historical significance.  

Now that yet another Halloween has come and gone, I find myself angry yet again. Why? Because some people still feel it necessary to put on Blackface and parade in costume around as their favorite personality on All Hallow's Eve.  

At this year's 3rd Annual Halloween Do Over finale better known as the Boo Over, was of course a reveler in Blackface apparently portraying a member of NWA. I wasn't there, and given that this event draws a very multiethnic (read: Black) crowd, I couldn't help but wonder if anyone stepped to this dude and gave him verbal lashing for his outfit.  

I just wonder: Is this somehow acceptable now and I didn't get the memo?


[Photo via from El Che]

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8 Responses

  1. Hello. I was there and even outside before he walked in. I will admit that my initial shock immediately wore off with laughter. I think part of my acceptance of his "blackface" was because we were at the Do Over. The Do Over is a place for diversity and love so it didn't strike me as being offensive. Now if I saw that same costume at a party in Orange County, there definitely would have been words.
    Looking back on it, I would prefer the costume without the blackface but I know he was not trying to offend me anymore than someone in a samurai costume was trying to offend Japanese culture.
    You bring up a good issue though.

  2. Dressing as a Samurai warrior is not offensive but it be if you pulled your hair back tight to create a more slant eye and talked in a stereotypical Asian voice.
    Why can't they dress as black people without the need to put the makeup on. I would still know who he was going as with out the black face.

  3. The historical and racist context of white people wearing blackface is what makes this "simple" costume unacceptable. Wearing blackface is in the top 5 things that white people should never do. Sorry.
    If he wanted to dress up as a rapper I'm sure he could have hooked up an Eminem or Vanilla Ice costume quite nicely.

  4. It's things like this that just make this outfit completely unnaceptable to me.

  5. The blackface weirded me out initially, I admit. It never feels okay. I have to second Che though in knowing the crowd there, I felt less offended or suspicious than I normally would. The crowd there is not "multiethnic (read:Black)." It's multi-ethnic as in -Asian-Americans, Latino/as, Blacks, Whites and people of multi-racial backgrounds - all happily dancing Sunday afternoon away together in haze of Sangria. That's one of the cool things about it.
    I also think there is a difference between costumes that represent an entire ethnic group in an offensive (Al Jolsen's black face) way versus someone dressing up as a particular person whom they may admire and are trying to look more like. I also think it's a bit extreme to dictate that people can only dress up as someone from their own ethnic group. Do you have to be part Venezuelan to dress up like Mariah Carey, or is that going to piss somebody off?

  6. No, I think I could pull of a good Mariah Carey and have people know it was me given she's so scantilly-clad for her age. But I don't think I need to put on a lighter shade of foundation just to do it. The other issue here is that this person chose just to darken his face, not the rest of his visible skin, which just has too many echoes of Blackface.
    This Mariah-Carey-thing brings up a good point, though. If I wanted to dress up as Tina Turner, someone several shades lighter than me, would I also feel it necessary to don lighter foundation? The answer is, no, I would not.
    Just to be clear, I have frequented the Do Over several times, and absolutely love it and the crowd (which to me has some of the coolest, Blackest, and music-loving people ever assembled weekly in one place in LA) but I will still stand firm that this person's costume will always be completely unacceptable. It is akin to someone saying to me (as someone once did) that slavery happened so long ago, that it's just not relevant to talk about it anymore.

  7. I agree with you Mami it's never you said how many black folks do you see dressed up in White face...On the other hand last night I was dressed as a bellydancer in a costume that I got from an Indian store(no not Middle Eastern).Last night at the party I asked a young Indian gentleman if he or other Indians would find it offensive that I was wearing a traditional outfit as a Halloween costume..he said no.But then again, we can't ever forget the HISTORICAL significance of Blackface,the mockery, the suffering,the again NO it's never, ever appropriate!

  8. White people in Black face will be ok when: hell freezes over, wage disparity dissapears, jena 6 is 86'd, all social clubs admit Blacks, country clubs admit Blacks, cops beat down white peole in Bel Air, public schools give equal not seperate educations, LaSheika is just as likely to get a VP position as Becky, America apologizes for slavery, the 1/16 rule is abolished, reparations are given to Blacks who have been living as Blacks for over 100 years (that's how I say we decide who is Black), "ghetto" means "trailer trash" "Euro trash" and any other white trash TOO, and oh yeah, when hell freezes over.


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