Fall Back: Let Me Explain
In case you missed it, last week I did a great job of offending people by not writing a Halloween post about the history of blackface and why it hurts my feelings. Instead, I attempted to compose a more honest set of press releases for any white person of note who gets cited for the offense. I did this for a few reasons. On some level I figured, hell, every major website will have some black person write about why blackface angers and offends some black people, thereby perhaps inspiring some white person lost on the internet to (sadly) mark that off the list of ways for them to have fun. And you know what? It happened. My Twitter and Facebook feeds were full of posts articulating why it’s important to take the spook out of spooky. I just didn’t want to contribute to the subgenre.
Although I thought it was important to say something, I wanted to satirically suggest we look at things in a different way. Let’s face it. At this point it seems that there are just as many blackface articles as there are pictures of white people in blackface meandering around the internet. It’s the Halloween version of the open letter. My narcissism would not allow me to be another anonymous drop in the deluge. Besides, I didn’t think another blackface = bad post would be helpful to anyone outside of the writer. Moreover, the approach just seems hella played. White folks claim to be one of Al Jolson’s descendants; black folks post the pictures and supplement it with an article about why it’s impolite to outwardly display such racism. Rinse. Repeat. Yawn. See you next year. Folks would be better served to just punch blackface offenders in the fact. At least there’d be some level of satisfaction.
I figured, what if I wrote something that gestured towards something other than an educational opportunity? What if, instead of explaining for the umpteenth time why blackface is messed up, we saw the act for what the racism that it is? What if we didn’t assume that the reason why white folks rocked blackface every Halloween was because they didn’t know the history? What if we realized that rehearsing the history was more of a stroke of our erudite egos than and less a history lesson that would enlighten the ignorant? What if we understood the gesture as white folks not really giving a damn, because they don’t have to? I took a shot and serving the latter. And I didn’t even get points for creativity.
You know what? I ain’t for everybody. And that’s cool. I get it. The thing is, though, when you’ve been writing on the internet as long as I have. you start to see the same things. And if the same things aren’t generating the change one seeks, why keep doing it? Is it a “movement” if you’re not moving? As the detritus of the post-Halloween Halloween parties start to make their way onto the web, I hope we pause a moment before we submit the next blackface article, and think about who we’re trying to serve with it. Such gestures seem like self-serving songs only the choir will hear. And that’s cool, if clicks, article quotas, and congratulatory remarks are the goal. Just claim that. And let’s not pretend to be poking the bear of white supremacy, when we’re really singing it a lullaby.