Blackface images still prevalent in 2014

Halloween costume

Blackface masks were used as a popular form of entertainment in the minstrel theaters during the 19th and 20th century. The idea was that people of one race pretended to be another. In films, black characters were role played by white people in black facemasks. A majority of the white race that imitated black characters consisted of white Irish people that wanted to fit in and be accepted by society. The masks of the black people portrayed in films like, “The Jazz Singer” were very racist and stereotypical images depicting black people as almost animalistic.

While most people in our culture today believe the concept of blackface is highly offensive, some people such as celebrity icon Julianne Hough continue to condone its practices. On Halloween of 2014 this famous celebrity made a fashion statement that was very controversial and offended a lot of people of the black community. In the image above, she is seen dressed as the African American girl from the television show “Orange is the new Black”. Hough painted her skin to match the characters and make herself look black. She claimed she didn’t intentionally mean to be racist or offend anyone by painting on her skin color. Her actions took to the media like wildfire and raised a lot of comments from fans.

Why do you think celebrities like Hough continue to use the concept of blackface in our culture today? Is there ever going to be an end to the skewed racist images and attitudes toward popularizing black culture?

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3 thoughts on “Blackface images still prevalent in 2014

  1. The fact that Hough’s actions were intended for Halloween costume purposes makes me wonder why we are so quick to assume people are trying to be racist. If she was trying to dress up as the character from the TV show, how else was she supposed to accomplish this? Since all of their costumes are orange jumpsuits, the only differentiator between which character is which is their hair type or skin color. Whether or not Hough was intending to be racist is not what I am trying to argue. Rather, I just aim to note how interesting it is that our culture has gone from completely desensitized to racism, to overly sensitive on the subject.

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    1. Another example of Blackface being prevalent in the present was at the ASU vs. Stanford game in September. The students were asked by the leaders of the African American Community not to wear face paint of any kind to the “blackout” football game. It was a reminder of Blackface and offended other students because of the racial insensitivity. I do not think students understand that it is a big deal because it happened in the 19th century and children are raised knowing only the positive sides of America to form a sense of patriotism. If people were raised knowing the negative sides, they would be more aware of the racism that was in the past and the racism that is still present today. It may not be to directly make fun of African Americans, but it is still offensive.

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  2. I believe that celebrities such as Julianne Hough continue to use the concept of blackface simply for the sake of entertainment rather than to stereotype or categorize the African American race. Julianne Hough is dressed as “Crazy Eyes,” a favorite character from the popular TV show “Orange is the New Black.” Crazy Eyes is an eccentric, popular character that many fans of this TV show would understandably like to depict for Halloween. In doing so, many would also understandably choose to paint their face darker in order to better appear as Crazy Eyes, who is African American. In the 19th and 20th century, blackface masks were used in plays and films to portray stereotypes that depict black people in racist ways such as being animalistic. Unlike this, such use of blackface nowadays is purely for entertainment purposes on an occasion such as as Halloween, and implies no such malice.

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