An Alabama teacher is apologizing after a photo of him dressed in blackface as Kanye West at a Halloween party made the rounds via social media – the latest example of a most confounding controversy.
Teacher Heath Morrow posted the photo of himself and his wife, who went as Kanye’s wife Kim Kardashian, at a private Halloween party, media outlets including WHNT reported. The photo was removed but not before it went viral. School officials held a press conference to read an apology from Morrow:
Actress Julianne Hough apologized after a similarly ill-considered Halloween getup two years ago.
Photos of her in blackface, dressed as the “Orange is the New Black” character Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, went viral and caused quite a stir.
“I am a huge fan of the show ‘Orange is The New bBack,” actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created,” Hough tweeted at the time. “It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize.”
While modern-day practitioners may insist they are simply going in character and mean no offense, the history of blackface in America, including demeaning ‘minstrel’ performances, is steeped in racial prejudice. The web site black-face.com offers a very comprehensive history of offensive racial images, including minstrel shows.
“Minstrel show entertainment included imitating black music and dance and speaking in a “plantation” dialect,” the site reads. “The American minstrel show was effectively dead by WW1, yet some old-timers continued to peddle the same blackface stereotypes later in vaudeville, films and television.”
And for some reason the issue persists today.
Just last month, Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. suspended five soccer players for dressing up as The Jackson Five, wearing afros and blackface, the Spokesman-Review reported.
Here in Georgia, celebrity chef and author Paula Deen’s camp apologized earlier this year when this photo of her and her son Bobby Deen, in face paint as Desi Arnaz, caused a social media firestorm.
Halloween is this Saturday. If you’re feeling uncertain about whether your costume is offensive, Google “Why Blackface is Offensive” to find a wealth of heartfelt, thoughtful and instructive commentary on the topic.
Or just rely on this graphic from ryot.org: