COURSE OF ACTION

I hadn't a clue that performing in blackface was still a thing, but some part of me knew that if anyone in the United States still performed in this shall we say "controversial" medium it would probably be a cop. Now the whole country knows that, yes, blackface is still a thing some people do and yes, the master of the art form is an ex-cop who was fired from the Baltimore PD for being too racist. Pause for a moment to consider how racist you have to be in order to be ruled Too Racist to be a Baltimore police officer.

Assuming you are not performing in a film or play in which re-creating the late 19th or early 20th Centuries involves the realistic depiction of a minstrel show, it is not complicated to determine whether or not donning blackface is a good idea. For anyone who might be confused I have assembled a handy flowchart. Consult it as often as necessary.

blackface

The academic part of me thinks I understand, or am capable of understanding, why people behave the way they do. I'm no sociologist or psychologist, but it doesn't take much to come up with a persuasive explanation of why people think this sort of thing is OK. At the most basic level, though, I have a difficult time fathoming how an adult human being would need to have it explained to him – in 2015 – that performing in blackface maybe isn't a great idea in the midst of a racially charged series of events involving the deaths of black men at the hands of cops.

Can anyone's lack of self-awareness be that complete? Or does he know but simply loves to troll? Given that the stated purpose of the event was to raise money for the indicted cops, trolling seems unlikely. That only leaves one option.

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29 Responses to “COURSE OF ACTION”

  1. Charles Says:

    How much worse would this behavior have to be for a reasonable person to assume this is an anti-police saboteur? Much further – white hoods, burning crosses – and it would be too obvious.

  2. J. Dryden Says:

    To my mind, people want to do blackface because they know they shouldn't. Period. It's really not that complicated. It's the appeal of the transgressive. And, as one might expect, said appeal is mostly appealing (sorry) to the infantile.

    This hypothesis is supported by my experience that the reaction of people to being told they can't do blackface is identical to those who are told they cannot use word "nigger," to wit: they inevitably respond with what every parent of more than two children will recognize as the infantile wheedling of the immaturely selfish: "Well, if *I* can't, then how come *X* can?!" (Seriously, the tone is EXACTLY the same–that high-pitched nasal expression of lizard-brained cunning and sub-lizard-brained self-interest.)

    And, as with children, your conscience basically owes them one or two attempts at an explanation–real attempts, you need to do your due diligence according to the social contract, here. Then, when they invariably refuse to understand, just slam them down with an absolute "This Is The End Of The Discussion One Way Or Another Because Death Is Your Only Other Option" refusal.

    Like most kinds of "socially expressed" racism*, blackface is just another form of bullying. And while bullying in a child merits our attention and attempts at tracing and healing its source, bullying in a grownup is really just a sign of a fucking factory defect. Shut it down, hard.

    *See also "edgy comedy at the expense of racial minorities, women, and gays," "professional sports names/logos," and "everything Clarence Thomas has ever said, written, or thought."

  3. wmd Says:

    Except of course "Tropic Thunder". Somehow that was humorous.

  4. Dave Bearse Says:

    I loved the flowchart.

  5. Delbort Says:

    I am having a little trouble following the flowchart. I'm not seeing the branch that lets me and my bros in the Alpha Chi Alpha house dress in blackface for a ghetto party but it's totally cool because we all share this one black friend and he said it was OK, so it's totally OK, but I don't see that on the chart, bruh.

  6. Mo Says:

    Maybe a Sprinkles Bomb is in order, so the guy resembles a chocolate donut.

    PhotoShoppers, start your engines.

  7. Toschek Says:

    Ugh, blackface. When my wife's uncle died a few years ago she had to fly down to LA for the funeral/wake and she was helping them plan the festivities (they're Irish, so you know, any excuse to get wasted is a good one). They'd planned to have one of those PowerPoint slideshows with pictures of the deceased on a loop projected on a wall in the hall they'd rented out and my wife's cousins were responsible for putting it together. When she arrived at their house they were eager to have her preview it and give her opinion on how good it was. Except it wasn't.

    Uncle Jim was a big, big Lakers fan and apparently one year for Halloween he dressed up as late '70s Magic Johnson with an Afro wig and full on blackface. This was one of their favorite pictures in the slideshow and when the preview got to this slide my wife's jaw dropped underneath the floor. She said to them (gently mind you) "Hey, it's 2013 — maybe this won't leave people with the best impression of Jim". Wow did they react poorly and it quickly escalated into a very one sided yelling match, with 20 or so red faced, red haired ignoramuses yelling all kinds of invective at her. Her dad even tried to slap her for "disrespecting the dead."

    She was on a plane home 4 hours later.

  8. HoosierPoli Says:

    Toschek: Maybe they're Irish enough that they consider themselves black.

  9. Katydid Says:

    @JDryden; my former boss would brag to anyone who would listen about how he wasn't PC (translation; felt free to be a first-class jerk to anyone he thought he could get away with insulting and/or demeaning). We had several go-rounds in inter- and intra-company meetings where he would say something horrible about minorities or women, and I would counter with a short or bald joke (he was both). For a relatively-innocuous example, he loved to sit at the head of a packed table, chuckle evilly, and say, "Women and their designer purses, amirite? How many designer purses do YOU have?" to which I'd reply cheerily (because that really pissed him off–his intention was to be insulting and demeaning), "About as many as you have combs!"

    OH! The butt-hurt that would result! Everyone else in the room got it, but he was incapable of learning that there's a reason civilized people don't say horrible things to each other–things escalate and fights break out unless the victims are powerless or restrained from responding back. The anti-PC crowd just wants to hurt people without fear of repercussion.

  10. Linda Says:

    Dryden: easy peasy. This is what you tell children: no punching down–you can only pick on people/social groups with the same power as you and 2) you can only slag on your own kind. I honestly thought the whole world already understood rule #2, so I don't understand the whininess at all.

  11. Katydid Says:

    @Linda, as for #2, they're bullies who think they're entitled to punch down on anyone who can't fight back against them.

  12. Linda Says:

    Katydid: that's why you let them know–as kids– that it's not ok.

  13. oiojes Says:

    Sir Laurence Olivier, Othello.

  14. Katydid Says:

    @Linda, I agree that responsible parents teach their children, but there are a lot of irresponsible/bigoted/crazy parents out there encouraging their kids to bully others.

  15. rogamoyost Says:

    Many years ago, I was assigned to a U.S. base in the UK. One of the officers was in charge of finding entertainers for a command party, and engaged a local folksy sort of musical troop. The group's gimmick was that they were Treacle Miners (sort of a British version of a Hardrock Candy Miner or a Maple Syrup Miner). The group auditioned out of costume, all was good.
    The night of the party, the Treacle Miners arrived in full costume and just as a coal miner would have a face covered in coal dust, treacle miners had their faces covered in "treacle" The audience wondered why the entertainment was a minstrel show. The entertainers couldn't figure out what was upsetting the Americans. It did not end well, but it did end quickly.

  16. Greg Says:

    @Toschek There are few things that make me hungry to punch in the mouth and knee in the balls but men bullying their adult daughters (or their families in general) is one. I hope your father-in-law received a broken jaw and a permanent estrangement as his reward for abusive fuckery.

  17. anotherbozo Says:

    I could tell your flowchart was amusing, Ed, when I noticed coffee coming out of my nose.

    I keep attempting to help your posts go viral but my list of friends is too short. Maybe he was still asleep.

  18. Skepticalist Says:

    I really hope Donald Trump gets hold of this story.

  19. Robert Says:

    There's a site called YoIsThisRacist. According to the guy who runs it, every October he gets a rash of emails from white guys. They've come up with convoluted scenarios that involve blackface costumes, and want him to confirm that it's not racist.

    As a white guy myself, I have no idea why this is such an attractive idea. I have a full and satisfying life without doing blackface or saying ni-CLANG.

    Incidentally, the answer he gives them is "Yes, it's racist, don't be stupid."

  20. Toschek Says:

    @NoosierPoli – well they do brag about being "black Irish" so there is that. Funny thing is the family is 3/4th German (grandma is 100% German, grandpa is 50% German). They collectively ignore that part of their heritage though and if you were to judge based on the shamrocks on their mailbox you'd think they were 100% Irish.

    @Greg – No crotch punching, She's just cut him out of her life. I don't think she's spoken to him once in the past two years. Her sister is still on good terms with him and we occasionally hear about his latest escapades. Just last week we learned that he's currently dating (aka fucking) a woman 15 years younger than my wife. What a 65 year old man has in common with a 22 year old or she sees in him is beyond me. It's just grotesque.

  21. Templar Says:

    Katy, that is spot on.

  22. democommie Says:

    "No crotch punching, She's just cut him out of her life. I don't think she's spoken to him once in the past two years. "

    Well, maybe he could appreciate the humor of a bunch of young black guys dressed like drunken leprechauns.

  23. April Says:

    @ Toschek "or she sees in him is beyond me. It's just grotesque." Money now, or a good insurance policy. Here in China these match-ups are all about the green card.

    @Linda – That's why *I* can tell blond jokes but you (probably) better not. Like you, I thought everyone knew this rule.

  24. Anonymous Prof Says:

    I have a theory as to why so many white people are so desperate to dress in blackface, use the N-word, fly the Confederate flag, etc.

    It's not just that it's racist in the sense of being offensive and hurtful. It's racist in the sense of *asserting an innate superiority of white people over nonwhites.*

    If you tell a white guy that he can't use the N-word, then you are telling a white guy that THERE IS SOMETHING THAT HE, A WHITE GUY, IS NOT ALLOWED TO DO.

    And why can't they do it? Because Black people say so. This is obviously unacceptable. Black people aren't supposed to set rules.

    Are they trolling? Don't be naive. Of course they are.

    Why the fuck do you think they lynched people on the steps of the courthouse? They were trolling. They were rubbing people's faces in the fact that the law meant nothing, and they intended to do whatever the hell they pleased.

  25. Cat Lady Says:

    I live in Belgium. Look up "zwarte piet". I cringe every time Christmas season rolls around.

  26. Gino Herron Says:

    @Toschek: Thanks for reminding me that, while the Midwestern Italian side of my family provided enough racism to socialize any kid the wrong way, the Irish half is/was fully capable of the same bullshit–plus the fulminant, defensive, spittle-flecked attitude that goes with it. Re: my Irishness, it's about being able to keep two opposing thoughts in mind simultaneously. Yeah, my folks on both sides could be racist as hell, but I certainly do enjoy "The Fields of Athenry," and I'd watch Flogging Molly play anywhere. Americans of Irish descent would do well to take note of some of the progressivism taking hold in the Mother Country.

  27. Katydid Says:

    @April: the saddest day ever in the Phillippines was when their attempt to squeeze even *more* money out of the USA by jacking up the rent on the military bases backfired, and Uncle Sam said, "Uhm, know what? Just forget about it". There was a whole industry in the PI of trapping servicemen into marriage with the youngest, prettiest woman in the family, then having her bring all her relatives to the USA. Once the whole extended clan was over here, then magically the pretty young thing would fall out of love with the serviceman and divorce him.

    @Cat Lady; The Netherlands has the same character (not sure how you spell it in Dutch) and it was surprising to me to see it.

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