What do you think about Blackface?

Barry Max
I was hanging out with some friends last week rehearsing a one act play by J.I. Rodale titled: Streets of Confusion.

It’s about urban renewal (in case you cared).
We are scheduled to perform at The 2nd Annual Bagg’s Square Art Festival May 31st i utica N.Y..
I have been involved from its inception.
Part of the festival’s mission is to show the diversity of Utica and provide a platform for artists of every medium to show their work.

There will be music, food, film , poetry, and one act plays throughout the day. There will be booths were local artists wil be selling handmade jewelry and an assortment of offerings.

So , naturally I will flex my acting chops by participating in several of the performances.
We are an assortment of individuals from totally different backgrounds; assembled to make this aspect of the event sucessful.
We each bring something different to the table.
I have been able to point an early spotlight on the event by writing several articles about it. I have also went into the community to get some diversity in the homegenous event. The planners are enthusiastic about some additional culture.
Breakthrough Central New York and Art on The Run are the main bodies behind this ambitous idea. By writing out their mission (check em’out) over two years ago they have managed to watch these written ideas come to fruition. The last hurdle is the inclusiveness, to embrace and include all segments of Utica.
The upshot?
They admit… “we need help”
The attitude is there. That is what I mean when I say “there really is harmony”, it just has to be realized. And conflict, whether racial in origin or not, has to be a point of connection not separation.
There are a great many people who want that.
Want to get along.
There are people who are tired of hating, and do not even know why they hate.
Sometimes brutal honesty is a tonic, we need to know what is up sometimes.
During our rehearsal one of my associates asked “Dave what do you think about blackface”?

All eyes on me.

Without any hesitation, I said, “In a historical context it is sad and sickening.” I thought about it a little more and continued without pausing “I mean…you need to understand how many actual performances were literally ripped off. How many brilliant black performers had their material stolen from some small backwater stage, and then had to sit through the mainstream mockery by these blackfaced cretins?” Then I said, “Think about all the black people who had to wear it as well, a little piece of their soul dying everytime they put it on, think about the rare black headliner of the show having to enter the theatre through the back door. If you are comfortable after that, so be it”.
I almost said think about Paul Robeson but I knew it was futile.
Then I thought of Flava Flav and it is hard to blame people who don’t know history for doing or saying something that may seem totally innappropriate with someone like him on the airwaves, drawing big audiences.

Can anyone say Mantan?

“O.K Dave…. (he actually said o.k. like i was ranting…I wasn’t) so, what do you think guys”
I refused to be angry, I am sure there are bad events in his/their cultural history that I am just as indifferent about . It is not that I don’t care, it just does not resonate emotionally. So I can understand people like slappy and other eurocentric ethnicities not caring too much about racism and the biased construct we live under today.

After all, they treat each other pretty bad too.
Inclusiveness, conversations and questions like “do you mind blackface” make all the difference.
With a group consensus it probably won’t happen, if it does, I will counter with white face, walk around like something is in my butt and dance without rythm(Its a stereotype).

Is that funny?
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~ by barrymax on May 7, 2008.

13 Responses to “What do you think about Blackface?”

  1. Is it funny if you were to that in response? As a white dude, I would probably chuckle. Dig for a dig. As for them considering blackface, is the play (plays, events, what have you) being done to show it in a historical context? Discussion is always good, and I could see inclusion then, but if it’s just “hey, this is funny,” well, bust out the Chief Wahoo while you’re at it.

  2. This is a terrific piece. We in Utah used to have a restaurant called “The Coon Chicken Inn.” A very popular place that lasted into the sixties. The door was inside a huge grinning man in black face with the fat red lips and white white teeth. It was the most racially offensive, completely insensitive thing I’ve ever seen. And it was oh so popular with the 98% white population in Salt Lake. It always surprised me that it wasn’t torched by a member of our 2% black populous back in the day. I think we’re now up to 12% black population and with the big influx of other minorities, mostly hispanic, I look forward to the day we’re all a little browner.

  3. I agree randle. i did aske them if it was supposed to educational. In a educatioal context I thought it was innapprppriate as well. its an art festival why alienate the small number of black people that might show up. It would guarantee a typical response…”white folks are crazy”
    It would polarize people. We do not need that anymore.

    Savage- The Coon Chicken Inn? Wow. I remember in California in the 80’s there was a place , a restaraunt chain, called Sambo’s.
    They were notorious i the black community for bad service , like denny’s or shoney’s is now. They sued to keep therename after someone challenged the derogatory nature after all their masco0t was a grinning tiger(why do i remember that?)

  4. blackface–cuz you know we whities can play black folks even better than ya all…
    just like I don’t like the phrase “red handed” or “Indian giver”. Although an Indian giver is someone who gives you something and then takes it away again and yeah, that sounds like white folks alright.

  5. i’m not sure “red handed” is an ethnic allusion…… i think it means like “blood on your hands”……

    red right hand 

  6. Black Face, in theatrics, and especially in a historical context, is abhorrent. And Indian Giver certainly is insulting.

    Personally, I like to insult the Dutch. Those tulip smelling, Gouda eating swine! Evil, chocolate smeared hearts, sticking their fingers in every Dyke they can find….stealing land from innocent oceans! And what have the Dutch done for us lately! Dutch-treat indeed! Watery Beer! A land full of stupid canals and windmills. I hate the Dutch!

  7. How could I possible know what the hell is offensive, I’m just an drunk Irish mutt who thinks she can dance?

  8. That is funny beause i have a bi-racial son his mother is Belgium but she is flemish tey are ro a part of belgium that is very close to the netherlands. Every year they have afestival of Sinterclaus(he’s like santa and the pope mixed). So every year Sinterclaus has a parade and he is accompanied by children in blackface!!! My son, at 21 months, is perplexed. When his mother was achild they told her black people were made of chocolate. So naturally she was getting ready to offer that explanation. In steps david…we just skip over that page of the book until a later date …just like history class at school.

  9. DBD

    Hey…..I do hope you realize I was spoofing….(of course you knew)….Ya, race can be very perplexing to the young. We live in a community that is about 95% White. When my son was very young, about seven, he came and asked me what a ‘Black’ person was. I asked him why he was asking….

    ‘Well, Michael (professor’s son, Nigerian) is very dark, but Dorian (bi-racial) is lighter than Michael and someone said that they are both black. But Louis (Hispanic) is darker than Dorian, but they all look kinda brown to me. I don’t get it.’

    I was going to answer, or try….

    ‘You came in here to ask?’

    ‘No. We need some popsicles. We’re playing soccer.’

    ‘Ok. How many do you need?’

    Fifteen years later he still hangs out with Dorian, and Louis has been one of his best buddies all through school.

    Sometimes, it is not issues of Black or White…… but really how many popsicles you need.

    I still thing Dutch beer is crappy.

  10. Black people are made of chocolate? Yum!

  11. I was reminded of when my little cousim licked a black man’s arm in a waiting room because he looked so yummy. Fortunately, he had a sense of humor, too.

  12. you guys are great i am so hopeful..about life..really

  13. All I know is, despite the rumors, white people do not taste like chicken.

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