Halloween is right around the corner, which means we’re also dead in the middle of another round of Blackface Bingo — the annual occurrence where (allegedly) unsuspecting White people get into hot water after news of them donning Blackface for a Halloween costume is made public. Sometimes it happens at frat parties. A few times it’s been at work. Other times it's your neighbor going just a bit too far with his Chris Paul costume. (“Shoe polish, Conner? Really?”) Either way, it happens every year.
And, as with most rounds of Blackface Bingo, a “conversation” about the appropriateness of Blackface often follows. Because, “it’s all in good fun,” and it’s just adding artificial pigment to your skin to help enhance a costume, right? How is it any different from wearing green paint for a Frankenstein costume or invisible paint for your clever “Laker other than Kobe” costume? (Because, get it? Kobe doesn’t see his teammates. Hence, the invisible paint…ok, nevermind)
All valid concerns. So valid, in fact, that I’ve decided to address some of them with a short and handy guide on when it’s appropriate for White people to wear Blackface for Halloween.
When is it appropriate for White Black to wear Blackface for Halloween?
Never, ever, ever.
How about if…?
That’s not fair, you’re not even letting me finish my…
Man, why did I even agree to…?
Are you sufficiently amused now? Can we continue the conversation?
I am sufficiently amused. So sure. Ask away.
Thank you! Ok, so my girlfriend and I are big fans of The Wire. We’re such big fans that it’s actually how we met. I was at a bar, and I overheard a woman telling her friends that she was planning on binge watching The Wire over the next month, because she had heard so many great things about it. And I was like “I don’t mean to interrupt, but I was planning on doing the exact same thing next weekend!” So we talked some more, and we eventually agreed to make a “Wire-watching” date so we could experience the show at the same time. And now we’re a couple.
Anyway, our favorite characters are Bunk Moreland and Jimmy McNulty, and we thought it would be cool if I went as McNulty, and she put on a fat suit and some brown shoe polish to be Bunk. Would that be cool?
Ok. Well, how about this? We thought it could be a great homage to President Obama and Vice President Biden if we dressed like them, with her as Biden and me just adding a light touch of brown paint to be the President? What about that?
Kanye and Kim, where she adds a fake booty, a fake nose, fake nipples, and a fake family all grabbing on to, and cashing checks from, the fake booty, and I dress like I’m training for the post-apocalyptic Crossfit games — you know, like Kanye’s new fashion line — and I add a thin layer of bronzer to make it more realistic?
How about if we dress as “Flipper” (Wesley Snipes’s character from Jungle Fever) and she goes as “Angie” (Annabella Sciorra’s character from Jungle Fever)?
No. And why would you even think to do that? No one would get that reference. You’d walk into a party, and people would just think you were trying to be an NFL player. Or Wesley Snipes in real life. What is wrong with you?
So basically, there’s no situation where Blackface on a White person is appropriate?
Actually, yes there is. There is one situation when it isn’t just appropriate. It’s necessary.
Really?!?! When’s that?
When you’re a White person who wants to get your ass kicked or you want to get fired from your job. Then, and only then, Blackface is appropriate.
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