Posts Tagged ‘Moana’

In Defense of Blackface

Posted by Troy on 28th October 2017 in Current Events, Human Nature

It’s Halloween time again, and people have trotted out the list of costumes that cannot be worn without offending people.  Topping the list, Moana (based on a Hawaiian girl).  Of course, I find this silly, and of course, the instant comeback is “Well, I guess you are okay with blackface,” or some similar remark.  Now, I am the type of person who demands my thought process be consistent.  So I have decided to explore this issue and come to a conclusion… can I defend blackface, as this is the backstop of all such arguments.  In addition, I will cover some other costumes which have been outlawed by the PC police.  Let’s go with… Indian Chief with headdress and Border Patrol Officer.

First, let’s look at Moana.  Why would a white girl want to dress as Moana?  Probably why she admires her.  I doubt she is trying to appropriate Hawaiian culture.  Instead, she wants to emulate the aspects of this character.  This admiration would increase the child’s desire to learn about Hawaiian culture.  It would also make the child less likely to discriminate against Pacific Islanders.  So why on earth would you want to stop her?  Okay, so what if a black child wants to dress like Braveheart or a knight?  What’s wrong with that?  Maybe he loves freedom.  Maybe he loves chivalry?  Does anyone want to tell the child that he cannot be a knight because only whites can be knights in shining armor?  What the hell kind of message does that send?  Can only Japanese dress as samurai?  Now if you say “Well, these are relics from the past and the rules do not apply to knights (etc).”  How does that argument stand up against the Indian Chief?

Well, that brings to my next point.  What if someone wants to dress as an Indian Chief?  Well, the first thing I would want to determine is…why would someone want to dress up as an Indian Chief?  Are they trying to mock Native Americans?  Probably not.  They probably want to dress like that because Native American headdresses are so badass and flashy.  Let’s be frank.  They are awesome.  Why would a blonde want to dress like a Japanese geshia?  Probably because she thinks she’ll look smoking hot in a sleek kimono.  I don’t believe that these people’s first thought is to offend.

Let’s assume then that you can be a black Superman.  You can be a white Storm.  Let’s also assume that you are allowed to paint your face as long as it does not have to do with race.  So a girl can paint her face green to be the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz.  So can a black guy paint his face white to be a more accurate Superman?  Can a white girl paint her face to be a more accurate Storm?  Does the intent matter?  Does wanting to be more accurate (which is really no different than painting your face green for the Wicked Witch) matter?  I think most people would say “No, you cannot do this without offending people.”  At this point, I have to ask why?  Well, I think we need to look at the history of blackface.  As with most things, it’s hard to really pin this down.  I have heard that it was a case of not having black actors and having to make do with blackface.  This was particularly true in England (etc).  It’s important to remember that this wasn’t JUST an American phase.  I have also heard that it was because white actors didn’t want to act with black actors.  Another thing I have heard was that they wanted to make fun of blacks (would conjecture that this goes along with the last point and/or they didn’t think they could hire blacks to make fun of blacks).  So, the history of blackface is closely tied to a history of mocking blacks.  The question then becomes, “Well, is it FOREVER tied to mocking blacks?”  And… “Since there is no history of whiteface for mocking whites, is that allowed?”  If Chris Rock decided to use whiteface to mock whites, do you think that would be allowed?   I think it WOULD be allowed.  Should it be allowed?  Eh…I think not.  If we are going to have prohibitions on transrace, then we cannot have that.  What about if someone wants to paint their face black but not because they are trying to pass for a black person, but because they are going as some sort of inanimate object which happens to be black (say, like a scorched tree or some such thing).

Transrace… what about transsexual?  Can a man dress up as Wonder Woman?  Can a woman be Thor?  Can a man just dress as a woman just for kicks?  This used to be just fair game.  Did the rules get even more complicated by the whole transsexual movement?  Is a man dressing up as a woman offensive to both women and men who identify as women?  Can only a transsexual man dress as a woman now?  What if you’re not transsexual but your a transvestite?  Whooooa… this whole thing is getting tricky.  Is even worse if the man does a very poor job dressing as a woman so that it’s actively making fun of transsexuals/transvestites?

So what about purposefully provocative outfits like the Border Patrol agent?  Well…are you saying that the Border Patrol is the new SS?  Is the Border Patrol a hate group?  A bunch of storm troopers?  What does that say about the traditional “cop” outfit?  Is that taboo as it might be offensive to the Black Lives Matter crowd?  But let’s go into something worse than that.  What about someone who goes as an abortion doctor?  Or Hitler?  Or the twin towers with flames and airplanes coming out?  All of these have really happened.   What about someone that dresses as culture or blackface with the expressed purpose of making fun of them (think drunk Irish, inbred hick, or blackface)?

Then there’s this.  What if only one person gets offended.  If one modern day Wiccian says “Witch costumes are offensive because they perpetuate stereotypes.”    This this happens, I hazard to think that no costumes would be left in short order.  Do you say, “Well, one person being offended is unimportant, but 20 million being offended is important!”  Basically, do you feel that freedom of speech should be abridged?  Make no mistake, dressing up as anything is merely freedom of speech in another form.  That’s all.

Eminem did a god-awful freestyle rap against Trump.  In it, he gave an impression of at Trump supporter being an ignorant hick, and I was offended.  But if someone dressed up as a hick for Halloween and acted like an ignorant redneck, I would not be offended.  Why?  Because it’s Halloween.  Because it’s all in good fun.

So, there are two types of offensive costumes.  There is the unintended offensive.  This is mostly cultural appropriation offensive.  If your only reason for picking a costume is that it looks cool or you actually appreciate the culture you are “appropriating,” then I’d say carry on.  If you mean no offense.  No offense should be taken.  If we don’t have this very basic level of tolerance, you may as well just cancel dressing up all together, for it will never end.  Then there is there is the intentionally offensive.  When someone dressed up as the world trade towers on fire, they are trying to get people offended.  This is probably the same thing when someone does blackface.  Honestly, the best course of action is to ignore them.  Giving them attention of any kind is exactly what they want.  I would say that any costume whose sole point is to mock people shouldn’t be done.  But good people probably realize this.  Even though I would argue for having a sense of humor over “banning” a costume, good manners would dictate that you shouldn’t mock someone.  If you’re design of a costume is trying to piss anyone off (let alone a specific group of people), you’re probably going down the wrong route.  If you are trying to make people laugh by mocking a group of people (like a drunken leprechaun costume), you’re probably going down the wrong road.  That being said, again, I’d prefer you choose to laugh rather than to get angry if someone dresses in such a manner, as I would laugh at someone making fun of Southerners (in any number of ways).  That leaves the final question then: what about the case of a white girl doing black face to go as Storm wherein she intends NO offense and is merely wanting to show off her makeup prowess and be more authentic?  Will I defend this?  Yes.  I would defend this.  There is no ill-intent in her heart, and I cannot assign her blame for what actors did way over fifty years ago.  However, I would advise her NOT to do it.  Blackface is a trigger offense.  Regardless of intent, it will instantly offend, and you will have to explain yourself.  Your explanations will fall on deaf ears, and your night will be ruined.  Just don’t do it.  Besides, wearing thick make-up all night is terribly uncomfortable and and leads to blemishes.

Long Live the Constitution!