Wednesday, 3 November 2010

'Blacking Up'

I decided I will blog about this... since it had caused much debate in my house previously. It had all but being forgotten, until I have just noticed that a certain, easily offended, white skinnend blogger has 'unfollowed' me, due to blacking up. I won't say who, but it was one of the people who commented on my last post (where I dressed Antoine Dodson).

It all started when Amy decided she was having a 'countries' fancy dress party. Me, loving Cameroon, at first considered 'blacking up' and going as something from Cameroon (maybe Eto). A couple of my house mates said that blacking up is offensive. This set me off researching whether it is offensive.

My argument for it not being is that if you aren't doing it maliciously, or with any intent to offend, then there is no reason why it should offend. Personally, I find it more offensive saying 'white people can only dress as white people, black people can only dress as black people'.

I understand the argument with classic 'blacking up' with minstrals, and the assumption that black people cannot play the part... and that it was used to mock them, but have we not moved on from those times? Should these feelings constantly be held even though the world has moved on?

Anyway. The research. The first thing I found was an article on The Telegraph website, entitled "Why 'Blacking Up' White Actors Isn't Necessarily Racist". The article mentions a French director who couldn't find a suitable black actor, so used a darker skinned white actor. I am shocked that they couldn't find a suitable black actor, but I know little about French cinema, and perhaps that was the case. I am certain it wasn't due to being racist.

More recently in the film Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr was blacked up, and he received an Oscar nomination.

Then I came across the story of the Conservative Minister who went to an 'influential people' party dressed as Nelson Mandela (complete with dark skin). This was in the newspapers quite a lot, branded by some (I imagine mostly white) people as 'racist'. This was until Nelson Mandela himself spoke in the mans defence, saying:

We don't see any harm in this whatsoever. If it was a fancy dress party and people were expected to arrive as a character or famous person, we are convinced there was no ill intent behind this.

I think if someone is able to pass judgement on the situation... Nelson Mandela is the man.

So, back to my Halloween costume. I was a little bit worried about 'blacking up', as some people can be over-sensitive. Beforehand, I spoke to a few of my black friends to get their opinions. Everyone of them said that if I am going as that character, I would be stupid not to (though stronger language was often used) and that nobody would know who I was without.

So... if black people are not offended by this, why is it that white people seem to be?


  1. Speaking as a full blooded black chick...I FUCKING LOVED THIS! You dressed at an inspirational African Icon...It's not like you put a rope around your neck and hug yourself from a damn tree! I'm trippin at the fact that someone who was NON BLACK got more offended than I did lol

  2. agreed. if there is obviously no malicious intent, then i don't think that this would be wrong.
    last halloween, a good friend of mine got all decked out as Lil' Wayne just because he was her favorite artist. and it was hilarious!
    honestly, i think some people are just paranoid about the whole deal.

  3. People are so scared now days that saying something or doing something may be perceived as racist that its just easier to call anything racist not to be seen as a racist. I personally think it was funny, you didn't do it to hurt people, I think it would be hard to find a colour person who didn't think it was funny.