As Halloween has drawn to a close this year, there have been many posts and even causes educating the white masses of the importance to not dress in blackface for Halloween. And while many seem to have received and adhered to the lessons, some, unfortunately, slipped through the cracks of the no whites left behind program.
Heath Marrow, a school teacher in Alabama, dressed as Kanye West and his wife Shannon dressed as Kim K, padded butt included. Even though the slit sunshades would have been enough of a clue to whom Marrow was portraying, he still went the extra mile and painted his skin brown. He released a public apology which included “Everyone who knows my character and knows my heart knows that I have never seen color in my life,” yet he chose the perfect shade of brown to perfect his costume.
While Marrow apologized for his actions, his wife defended him with the usual white and in error response, “Some of my husband’s best friends are black” and the kicker, “It’s for HALLOWEEN, the one time of a year it is ok.”
Emma, a Florida teenager, showed her school spirit by dressing as Nicki Minaj for her school’s homecoming, with a less impressive job of blackface than Marrow, complete with padded butt and chest. The student was the only person lathered in brown substance for the event as shown above. Naturally, Twitter was in an uproar upon seeing her photos and even threatened to warn her potential collegiate choices. Emma, like Marrow, apologized claiming she “didn’t mean to offend anyone,” and later deleted her twitter account.
Minstrelsy, or minstrel shows, are characterized by white men lathered in black grease on their faces with heinously sized red lips. These men portrayed a day in the life of a black man, as the typical shuckin’ and jivin’ coon catering to the entertainment needs of his master. The minstrelsy era ran for about 50 years, during the same time as the rise of the “cakewalk.” A cakewalk can be described as slaves making fun of their white and affluent counterparts and their dancing styles. The masters were so tickled and amused at how silly their slaves looked, they made it a competition. Whichever couple had the most original choreography won a cake.
The irony is that the slave owners knew nothing of the intended joke on them, but the slaves knew every intent their masters had during minstrelsy. In fact, the only way African Americans were allowed on television was to dress in black face themselves and perform as the unintelligent dopes they were perceived to be.
With all of the readily available information on blackface, it is hard to believe Emma and Marrow had no ill intent with their costume choices. Like their ancestors, it was meant to be in jest at the expense of the African American, for a quick laugh, but at what cost, other than a reminder that African Americans are to be at the brunt end of each callous and racist joke? For the future, remember that blackface is neither acceptable for any time of the year, nor is it funny, because blackface is never ok.