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Blackface in drag is just as bad as any other blackface – and unacceptable

Blackface in drag is just as bad as any other blackface – and unacceptable

Mzz Kimberley talks about why blackface is unacceptable

Ever since I was a kid, I knew the N word was part of a racial vocabulary used to hurt. I realized a golliwog doll did not represent members of the black community. I knew blacks were not all violent thieves or uneducated, and I knew blackface was wrong.

Last week, Gay Star News reported on a drag king performer in Hawaii performing in blackface at a charity event. Their act was pretty quickly cut short when organizers realized what was going on.

You would think in 2018, after much discussion and educating, I wouldn’t have to write this article. As I put pen to paper, I ask myself why this is still happening, especially on the entertainment circuit.

‘Blackface is wrong, end of discussion’

Maybe this performer in Hawaii wanted to stir up controversy for attention. Maybe they were naïve on this subject matter. Perhaps it was just another example of white privilege prevailing.

The only thing you need to know is blackface is wrong, end of discussion. Of course, life is not that easy and POC communities always need to explain to some caucasians, which can be tiring.

I have heard it said it’s impossible for some caucasians to get this, because they typically don’t have anything to compare it to. They literally can’t imagine why something like this could touch a nerve. The fact is, some from the white community simply do not care or give a shit.

‘Black identity and black bodies are not a costume’

The history of blackface started because black performers could not perform with white performers in the US due to segregation.

Instead, the black community had their own performing scene, called the ‘Chitlin Circuit.’ When white performers wanted to portray a character who was black, they would take black cork or coal and rub it onto their skin to make it dark, add big lips and an afro wig.

These performances/portrayals of black people were not flattering. The person of color was always portrayed as a lazy, dumb, mentally slow, violent, incompetent and/or the butt of jokes.

Black identity and black bodies are not a costume. They’re not something to paint on for a laugh or a performance to satisfy an audience. Decades later, when this behaviour still occurs, it reminds the black community of the pain our ancestors had to endure.

People who continue to utilize blackface need to understand that the black community are not going to sit back and let these actions continue. We must remember and take pride with how our ancestors fought to make our lives much better today. To disrespect our ancestors is not up for a debate.

‘Hurt and pain’

A few years ago, drag performer Charlie Hides came under fire for a character she created. Many didn’t see this character, Laquisha Jonz, as offensive until you dug deep into it. The black community have fought Hollywood for years over the the way black people are depicted in a negative light.

Movies are a powerful medium. They previously sent out grossly stereotypical images of black people, including making us deviants. Maybe that’s why Charlie thought it was acceptable to portray a working-class mixed-race black woman with a large bottom.

If people took the time to put their feet in someone else’s shoes, they might understand the hurt and pain the black community have had to deal with for years. It’s a touchy subject that many white people simply feel uncomfortable around, merely because many don’t recognize themselves as racist. Yeah, right!

I don’t think many realise what constitutes racism. Institutional racism has made it acceptable to regard some minorities as second class citizens who should be grateful they’re allowed to live on this planet.

In the past, the wider white community were not questioned or challenged as much as today. The black community had fewer rights or a political voice. We live in different times, and that makes some white people very scared.

Respect each other

When I hear some white people say political correctness has gone too far, or the black community gets offended too easy, I see them as a racist. It’s as pure and simple as that. They don’t care about the historical pain that our community has suffered for years.

Institutional racism comforts them and confirms their viewpoint. They don’t see a problem. Instead, it only becomes a problem when there’s a black President or black footballers take a kneel during the American anthem, to protest peacefully about the injustice of black bodies being killed. It’s no coincidence that we witness a subsequent swing towards fascism.

We all, as members of society, need to take the time to get to know each other. We all are forced to live on this planet, so why not learn from and respect each other?

There will never be peace if communities continue to oppress other communities. This includes blackface, which is never acceptable – for drag kings, queens or anyone else.

Mzz Kimberley is a singer, actress and trans rights advocated based in London, UK. If you appreciated this column, please considering sharing or donating to this GoFundMe.

See also

Gay artist dresses in blackface as Storm from X-men and nobody’s impressed

RuPaul’s Drag Race schools Mary Cheney on why drag and blackface are not the same thing