Seeing a white person in blackface as a part of their Halloween costume is something I’ve come to expect.
This year proved to be no different.
Starting in college, I’ve seen many variations of a “costume” that included blackface. Of course the wearer of the “costume” always made a bee line for me and attempted to engage me in some type of exchange.
Every last one of them is genuinely shocked when my reaction is a little less than enthusiastic.
And when I say less than enthusiastic I mean death stare.
So when I saw an acquaintance dressed as Ronnie Woo-Woo on Saturday I was not thrilled.
He greeted me not too long after I walked in the bar but I think he had the good sense not to engage me any further when he saw the look on my face.
Later in the evening a mutual friend remarked that the blackface wearer wasn’t “that way”---implying that he wasn’t a racist.
To be honest with you, and after a day or so of thought, I have to reluctantly agree with him.
I truly believe that he didn’t mean to offend me by his choice of costume and in his own misguided way, meant it as a tribute to Ronnie as he is a diehard Cubs’ fan.
Nonetheless, knowing this person is an educator makes me question his overall judgment and cultural sensitivity. What if one of his kids or their parents had seen him dressed like that?
Yet, whether we want to admit it or not, we all have made racial missteps and been culturally insensitive.
Last Halloween my Antoine Dodson costume was mistaken for Aunt Jemima by a friend’s husband. On a visit to London a few years ago I casually (and loudly) utter another culture’s version of the “N-word” without knowing the true weight of what I was saying.
While it was an embarrassing & regrettable experience, at least I had its’ memory to draw on when I see uninformed racism in the form of blackface.
So my acquaintance got a pass.
I didn’t go off on him. I didn’t say one word to him aside from our initial exchange when I walked in.
But let me state this for the record---blackface is wrong.
It’s a little less offensive to me than burning a cross on my front lawn.
Don’t do it.
Blackface references a painful and dangerous point in American history for black people that wasn’t all that long ago.
As a black person I’m reminded everyday how America views us. I don’t need a crash course in insensitivity every Halloween.
As a side note, stop comparing your tan to my skin every time you get darker. That annoys me too.