Halloween is upon us and every year I—along with other minorities—have to call people out for blackface.
They may argue it’s not racist and that it’s for a costume, but they fail to understand the historical implications which derive from blackface. My fight isn’t with the ignorant people dressing like African Americans for Halloween, but with the people who think it is okay to look like African Americans or racially ambiguous in their everyday life.
In November 2018, Instagram model Emma Hallberg was under fire for using dark makeup to make herself appear to look African American in order to gain more followers. She, along with many other women, were blackbaiting, or changing their appearance with make-up, wigs and perms to appear African American or racially ambiguous.
I hate to break it to you, but blackbaiting is racist because it is blackface. Blackface is the action of individuals darkening their skin, painting on enlarged lips to appear as if they are African American. Sounds similar right?
Blackface began in the United States after the Civil War. White performers played characters in blackface that demeaned and dehumanized African Americans. These performers made people believe African Americans were lazy, hypersexual, ignorant and criminals. Some of the most famous blackface characters were Sambo and Jim Crow.
History.com writer Alexis Clark said in the blockbuster movie “The Birth of a Nation” the stereotypes of blackface characters in the movie became a recruiting tool for the Ku Klux Klan for anti-black propaganda.
Some people argue blackbaiting is not racist and it’s appreciating the beauty of African Americans women. Unfortunately, it still is a problem though.
Many African American women receive hate for their looks whether skin tone, hair, lips, etc. The issue is, black features are sometimes only loved on non-African American women.
Ronald Hall, a professor of social work at Michigan State University, argued African Americans, the Latinx community and every other oppressed population will internalize the somatic norm image at the expense of their native characteristics. This means, though dark skin is a feature of African Americans, light skin continues to be the ideal because it’s the one preferred by the dominant group.
As for hair, the Perception Institute found on average, white women show explicit bias toward black women’s textured hair. In the same study, one in five black women feel social pressure to straighten their hair for work.
It’s hard enough to find a company that makes my shade of foundation. Famous makeup companies like IT Cosmetics, Tarte and BeautyBlender launched foundation products without my shade in it, or my shade being the last shade offered.
How is it fair that African Americans struggle to find foundations which suit their skin color, but others are taking those products to look darker?
Stop trying to look like you’re African American, blackbaiters. You don’t understand the history, you don’t understand our people. You don’t understand that you are being racist.
Taylor Johnson is a journalism major at the University of Nevada, Reno. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @taylorkendyll.