What Is It With White People and Black Face?

Writers Note: (*White folks= “some” White folks (clarification for word Nazis unwilling to take responsibility for their own people and those who don’t want to associated with Whiteness at this time.)

1921 Photo portrait of Vaudeville star Bert Williams in blackface with cigarette; cropped from original

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why White people are drawn to imitating Black people as costume themes, in Blackface. From White men posing as female Hurricane Katrina victims to White men posing as a Black god knows what, to White female college students posing as Black women mocking their skin tones and body images, White people have had a sick fetish for a long time with Blackface, and I don’t know why they feel like it’s funny or okay.

I can’t really understand why White people don’t find it offensive and can’t seem to stop doing it. Not only can White folks not stop with the Blackface (Google it), they are are also breeding a new generation of racially insensitive young folks to carry on the atrocious legacy. I just don’t get it with some White people. Are they just as insensitive as they appear? Are they just pure evil with no redeeming properties worth salvaging? Do they simply not have common sense?

For example, why on earth would cops not hire Black people instead of dressing in blackface to go into Black communities. Lots to unpack here on a later date here:

I don’t know the answer, but what I do know is that I’m 48-years-old and I’ve never thought to do Whiteface, nor have I wanted to. It never crossed my mind. I don’t have the time or desire to conjure up racism that causes me to make fun of White people or any people for that matter.

Assimilation: Our Equivalent to Whiteface

For one reason, I have spent my whole entire Black life trying to assimilate to appease Whiteness for my mere survival. It’s fucking exhausting. For years I straightened my hair so it wouldn’t offend Mary or Elizabeth, my teachers, my school, or my employers because natural Black hair has been deemed “a problem.” I have even worn straight wigs to make my hairstyles resemble those of White women.

I have had to learn to speak two languages well in order to navigate White ways. I learned to write and speak “proper English” because it’s an important metric used by Whiteness to measure intelligence. Not speaking like “White people” would’ve gotten me a strike and decreased the opportunities for me to excel professionally.

My attire matters. I’ve had to model my attire since middle school to assimilate Whiteness. My mother made sure I had the same styles of clothes the White kids wore to ensure I wouldn’t be ridiculed and judged for not meeting White standards of appropriate dress. It was instilled in me early so that I could navigate my adulthood. As you can see, we don’t need to paint our faces, because a life of assimilation is the same as Whiteface for us.

Black folks work hard and move to White communities because ya’ll have all the good shit. White communities often have better grocery stores, nicer homes, well-maintained parks, and all the resources you deem important to ensure your kids can have the best. Black people move so that we can have access to those things. With our move, we must assimilate — conform. We make sure we aren’t “those Black folks” in all of your stereotypes.

You know the dirty outside of the home that makes your property values decline (or so you say). We maintain our yards and hire a yardman even though most of our parents taught us how to before we left their homes. We wave to our neighbors at the mailbox like the rest of the White folks, and we try not to be too loud because we know you won’t tolerate that from us — even if you do it yourselves. We’re taught at an early age Whiteness has low tolerance levels for Blacks. Assimilating preserves our lives, somewhat.

We move and assimilate into these White places because the cops don’t see us as much, we’re diluted. They harass us less because they don’t see Whiteness as a threat, if at all. White spaces are deemed safe places — free from the prying eyes of the police. We assimilate by living like Whites too.

There are a million ways Black people and people of color assimilate to Whiteness simply to survive. It’s a part of our everyday lives, And because of this, we don’t desire to paint our faces White, because being White is a way of life for many of us.

You Don’t Want This Smoke

White people love to paint themselves Black. They think it’s funny and cute. They can wash it off and go back to their prestigious, racially superior lives where they are allowed to make fun of others without repercussions. People stupid enough and racist enough to dress in Blackface know they really don’t want to be Black.

You. Don’t. Want. This. Smoke. White. People.

Trust me. While being Black is beautiful, being Black is hard as hell. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Never accepted. We never fit in. It’s never our time. We always need a White savior to take us to another level. Always deemed inferior. Always second best. Always the stepping stool for other immigrant groups. Always at-risk. We’re always on edge. It’s hard being Black. Really hard.

Many White people couldn’t survive a week in our shoes, let alone a lifetime. You can’t take scrutiny, and criticism well. When you’re Black, there is no team to switch to when you’re afforded in your White life. When shit goes wrong, when policies impact you negatively, when the pay ain’t equal, and when the cops come calling with guns pointed, White people aren’t ready for that kind of smoke. It’s not in your DNA. Besides, White parents clearly don’t prepare the majority of their kids how not to offend us in the same manner our Black parents spend time preparing us how to not be killed White people.

So why do White people feel wearing our skin tone isn’t offensive? The fact that you can’t and don’t have the intellect to understand how racist Blackface says much more about the minds and hearts of White folks (as well as their sympathizers and enablers) more than it does the people you’re imitating in a derogatory manner.

I know how to be Cinderella without painting my skin White. I know how to be a White professional athlete without putting on White shoe polish. I know how to be Betty Boop, or any other White character/person without painting my skin (even though the real Betty Boop was Black). I also know that appropriating a group’s culture is wrong. I’d never make my eyes slanted and dress in attire because that’s appropriating a culture I have no ties to.

A reproduction of a 1900 William H. West minstrel show poster in Black face.

I would never put on a bolo tie, moccasins, put on a dark wig with straight hair, or Native American headdresses, because those are garments that belong to a group of people I have no ties to and it is disrespecting their culture to me. Maybe the issue is that White people don’t respect anyone else's culture since their global reign of terror.

Maybe that “thing” inside of Whiteness is deep rooted, pervasive racism embedded in their DNA, heck I don’t know. I do know it seems like too many White folks never learn racism lessons. Why isn’t it (Blackface, racism) an important enough of a lesson to get? It seems any chance they get to celebrate something, misappropriating a culture using costumes and wigs or dressing in Blackface is a staple. Young, old, professional, or an ignoramus — some White folks just can’t seem to help themselves. They also seem to revel in their ignorance.

I’m tired of White people saying I’m sorry for their racism and for their Black face. Why is it that White people can’t reconcile with their biases and racism, when the entire Black and Brown world is forced to assimilate, reconciling with your need to have us assimilate? It’s very humiliating to be forced to assimilate, then turn around and have White folks mock us for our natural looks, something that’s beyond our control.

I believe it says a lot about the character and moral fiber of these types of White people. No one should have to inform you guys that this is inappropriate as an adult. You should have learned it in your homes from your parents, in your schools, and in your places of worship (although they aren’t much better — because those places are segregated).

Being Black Is Not A Joke

White people, if you know you don’t like Black folks, you don’t respect us, and you clearly have decided that being Black is a bad thing (like the worst thing on the totem pole), do us a favor, please?

Don’t do Blackface. I don’t care if your ancestors did it. It was wrong. I don’t care if your daddy or grandpappy watched it on television. It was still wrong. If your mama won’t tell you it is, I will. I don’t care if your friends wear Blackface in your presence. It’s still wrong. And if you have friends that condone Blackface, racist talk, Klan robes, and hate speech but now you’re suddenly healed from your racist afflictions— get you a new damned set of friends.

Blackface is wrong. Imitating Black people as a costume is wrong. It’s disrespectful to a group of people you’ve systematically oppressed for over 400 years here in America. Every photograph of Blackface is another wound to our soul.

Get it together White people. It’s 2019. You’re supposed to be really smart. Superior to be exact. If White people can’t grasp racism with all the studies and definitions of the issue throughout the world on your smartphone or computer in this day and age, then you all are not as smart or superior as you profess to be.

And if you’re White and you don’t see anything wrong with Blackface, dressing in drag as a Black woman, or wearing costumes appropriating cultures in a derogatory fashion, then you’re probably a racist.

Blackface isn’t good or fun. Blackface is racist — every day — every time.

Do some research. Learn American history. Get some Black friends. Don’t just be sorry White people. Please do better!

Marley, February 2019

I found a great piece on White face (written by a newly discovered writer Fanny Elisabeth Garvey)…It lays out the theatrics of White fragility and White tears when racist are confronted about their shenanigans. It’s emotional and painfully clear on how men like Brett Kavanaugh, Gov. Northam, and even young men at the Catholic school get away with bad behavior. It has a name now! It’s called White face.

White face is a minstrel show of a different type, but a show no doubt!

I write intelligent, unvarnished thoughts on anti-Blackness, racism, politics, Black people, and White Supremacy. White Fragility🚫| www.ko-fi.com/marleyk

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