I try to keep these posts short and to the point, but I am making an exception in this case. Last night’s last post was about this article and it was bothering me even then. However having been involved in a debate online about this, I thought it would be important to state my position.
As a person of colour I did not find this terribly offensive. However what did occur to me was, of all the costumes in the rich imagination of man to create, why would someone in that position make a decision to choose this one? I am not all about looking to pin racist behaviour on white folk – but even knowing a little of the history behind black face would make a sane person think twice.
As late as the 1940s in theatre and film, blackface was used as a caricature of African Americans and blackface was used to mimic and make fun of people of African descent. Can you see how that may offend, hurt or make otherwise uncomfortable a person of colour?
There is a difference between political correctness and tolerance for one’s fellow man. So for those saying this is political correctness at its worst and bemoaning that people should not be offended again I’d like to say that if we set aside all of the particulars of what happened here and look at it from an absolutely distilled view then here is what we should end up with:
A person in a position of authority – a position that exercises a certain degree of control on other minds – decided in fun to impersonate a colourful television character who also happened to be a man of colour. This person in authority had to apply body paint to pull this off. So far so good? If we can all agree that this is what has happened thus far then we can move on.
In applying this body paint to properly pull off his costume, this person in authority would have done something similar that was done in the past to ridicule people of colour. It was maybe not the person’s intention but the action was similar enough to cause a level of discomfort among various people of varying ethnic backgrounds.
Was it intentional? Probably not!
Was it designed to hurt a group of people? Probably not!
Could it be seen to hurt, offend or otherwise make uncomfortable a group of people? Probably yes.
Should the person have known better? Probably yes!
Did the person’s position make the action seem worse? Probably yes!
So from my perspective, this could have been avoided with better decision making by people in positions where that person’s action can be seen to negatively affect the actions of other people and where that action can be seen to hurt, offend or otherwise make uncomfortable an ethnic group.
If nothing, let this at least be a lesson that we live in a racially and ethnically diverse society and in that society we all must be cognizant of the things that may hurt, offend or otherwise make our fellow travellers uncomfortable. What is happening here is a learning process and for people to blithely say that an ethnic group should not be hurt, offended or be uncomfortable is silly if we are to live together. It is just as silly to ask for the person to be fired. What is not silly is to apologize.
- Peel school board investigating VP’s blackface costume (globalnews.ca)