Here’s Your Yearly Reminder That Blackface For Your Halloween Costume Ain’t It, Y’all

Finally, October has arrived. The time for pumpkins, candy, and costumes are upon us, meaning we all have the chance to channel our inner child and let loose for one night a year (it’s more like one week if we’re honest). But with the season of dressing up for fun comes the inevitable scourge of costumes the internet exposes of blatantly racist and offensive Halloween costumes. We’re talking, of course, about blackface. 

Here is a Halloween PSA for everyone: black skin is not an “accessory” to your costume in the same way that plastic vampire fangs or a witch’s hat can be.

The cultural and historical baggage that blackface holds in America is reason enough to simply banish it as an option to add to your Halloween costume. Every year, black people and POCs are again reminded of how ignorant some non-POCs are when it comes to the history and baggage that attached to wearing blackface. No, it doesn’t matter if you’re “well-intentioned” or “just having fun”, blackface is never an acceptable addition to a costume. Period. Seeing white people use Halloween as an excuse to paint their face black has long been something that black people have silently fumed over. But thankfully, the tides are turning and that time of silence is coming to an end.

Blackface has a long and painful cultural legacy in the United States. The “tradition” of blackface goes back to at least the 1800s, when white entertainers would paint their faces black, their lips red, and wear wigs and “rag” clothing to impersonate what they believed black people acted like. These minstrel shows were incredibly popular in the US and beyond. Their widespread popularity served to reinforce racist and negative stereotypes that gave evidence to the belief that black people were fundamentally different from white people. The practice dehumanized and degraded Black Americans. 

The argument that painting your face black is simply an homage to your favorite character ignores the painful history behind changing one’s skin tone as a means of entertainment. 

 Black skin is not a costume. It is not an accessory. It is something that millions of black people have been enslaved, persecuted, and killed over. Wearing blackface as a white person simply reinforces and emphasizes the cultural dominance white people have–and the blatant disregard so many of them have for what black people continue to explain is offensive. The fact that ⅓ of Americans still believe that blackface is acceptable for a Halloween costume proves that white supremacy is real. It may be subtle or unconscious, but it is alive and well.

 As Professor George Yancy said in his powerful New York Times essay, blackface is “a performance historically grounded in white supremacy”. The fact that so many white people still insist that POCs are “too sensitive” or “can’t take a joke” or are “taking it the wrong way” when they’re caught in the act of blackface is part of what makes it so offensive. In essence, it is an attempt to erase centuries of historical trauma by claiming that it is “all in good fun”. 

If you still doubt that dressing in blackface for Halloween is as problematic as we claim, look no further than Twitter to absolve you of that notion.

Sometimes, the only way to fully understand a concept is to read about it in 280 characters.

This person gave an on-point example of how to pull off Halloween costumes of black characters without changing your skin tone:

Another point that’s worth noting: black characters, celebrities, and public figures are more than the color of their skin. It should be easy to portray the essence of who a person is without painting your skin black.

This person has a creative solution of how to avoid the inevitable scandal that is sure to fill our news feeds this October:

Admittedly, that’s one way to solve the problem. A better way? Simply understand that the practice is unacceptable. 

This person has pretty detailed directions on how to choose a non-problematic costume this year:

Yes, costumes that appropriate a marginalized group’s culture are also something to 100% steer clear of. Again, the reason lies in the history of white supremacy, the violent history of Western dominance, and the historical oppression of POCs.

This person shared some iron-clad advice for non-POCs heading into the Halloween season:

It’s ironic that the advice is so simple, but it seems to be so hard for so many people to follow! Here’s to hoping that this year will be different. 

A Student Filmed Her Teacher In Blackface And Now The Video Has Gone Viral And The Teacher Is On Leave

Things That Matter

A Student Filmed Her Teacher In Blackface And Now The Video Has Gone Viral And The Teacher Is On Leave

@karrington_kk / Twitter

A student’s video of her teacher wearing blackface to class to appear as the rapper Common on Halloween went viral. The teacher from California has since been placed on leave, according to BuzzFeed News

The clip circulated on Twitter after 16-year-old Karrington Kenney shared video footage. In the 23-second video, the teacher enacts a scene from Common’s Microsoft AI commercial for his students in the class. Kenney told BuzzFeed News the video came from a friend whose mother is also a teacher at Milpitas Unified School District where the incident occurred. 

The school told BuzzFeed they would not release the name of the teacher because it was a “confidential personnel matter.” 

Kenney shares the video of teacher with blackface on Twitter.

“Sooooooooo… one of our WHITE teachers at MHS yesterday decided to paint his face so look like Common the rapper yesterday,” Kenney tweeted. “The school just told him to clean up…”

In the video, not only is the teacher painted in dark brown makeup but it is much darker than Common’s actual skin color.

“With A.I. Microsoft technology, the future is up to you,”  he says attempting to speaking with an offensive black accent, while Common speaks much differently.  

“We decided to post this to bring this to the eye of public,” Kenney said. “He genuinely thought it was okay to come to school like this.”

Kenney said the incident hurt especially because there aren’t many black people at her school. 

“He’s a white male, so he came to school with his face painted and he tried to act as if he was the rapper,” Kenney told  KTVU. “To see that he really thought that was O.K. and it was a joke — it really hurts, especially being one of the handful of black people that we have at our school,”

Officials call for an investigation of the incident. 

Chris Norwood, the president of the school board in Milpitas, called for an investigation of the “insensitive” act. 

“As an African-American man, the history of blackface reminds me of the cruelty, hatred and fear my parents and people of African ancestry have dealt with in the past and still experience today around the world,” Norwood told the New York Times. “Unfortunately, blackface still permeates global society today through social media, comedy and fashion.”

The school releases a statement, calling it “insensitive.” 

School officials released a statement condemning the racist act to parents and faculty. 

“It hurts to know that this type of cultural insensitivity and lack of cultural awareness still hovers in the background,” the superintendent of the Milpitas Unified School District Cheryl Jordan and school principal Francis Rojas said in a statement. 

“We are committed to strengthening our school environment through culturally relevant and respectful education designed to address prejudice and racism so that we can prevent bullying and harassment. Blackface paint has a historical and present-day connotation of racism that demeans those of African ancestry. The act was disparaging to our students, parents, colleagues and the Milpitas community we serve.”

This isn’t the first time a teacher has been put on leave due to a racist act. 

In October, a Pennsylvania middle school teacher was placed on administrative leave after a viral Facebook video showed her call someone the N-word and using derogatory language. A video shows Renee Greeley confronting a parent in the school parking lot. 

“Because you’re black.” she tells the man who she insists is on welfare after he told he made six figures. “Always looking to milk the system. And you see me, a white woman, so you think I’ve got money.” 

Greeley then called the man the N-word and other expletives. The school administration promptly placed her on administrative leave without pay. 

“It’s got to stop,” District Superintendent Daniel P. McGarry told USA Today. “This rhetoric and this language and the way the people feel and the way they communicate has to stop. It’s destroying the country. It’s destroying (the) country and we’re going to be the place that’s going to prove to people that it can be done the right way.” 

Within the same week of this incident in Pennsylvania, a Virginia teacher was fired after she used a racial slur against her student. 

“She called him a ni**let. She called the student a ni**let. She went on and there were other words and terms expressed out loud,” one parent told NBC 12. “I’m concerned for the culture that’s within the school. I’m concerned about who we have in the classroom.”

As long as the President is comfortable using racist language and tropes in his rhetoric, citizens will continue to follow his lead.