Is Blackface racist? It all depends, maybe… It is offensive if someone finds it offensive. That’s really what it comes down to; if anything that someone feels offensive it is, by definition, offensive. No, actually, on the other hand, can we get too sensitive about things? Yes, absolutely. Someone who has not been offended by something can look at a message and not be offended by it and think that people who are offended by the message are too sensitive. However, exploring blackface, this can be horribly offensive.
Recently I was watching “All Eyez On Me“, the movie about Tupac Shakur and in his life. Personally, I would love Tupak: I love his message I love his intellect and I love the fact that, although he flawed, he was trying to make a difference and make changes in the world in which he lived there; I appreciate that. In the movie “All Eyez On Me” they showed the portion of his life when he was part of Digital Underground. They showcased a concert where Digital Underground was performing the song “Humpty Dance“. Now, I will be more than happy to fully acknowledge that the intent of that song was too mock and ridicule, dare I say satirize much of the popular music at that time. However, when watching this portion of “All Eyez On Me” I couldn’t help but think of the rolls of dark people in popular entertainment during Shakespeare time. They played the harlequin roll as a fool in the food not to be taken seriously, this is not far from the controlled Jim Crow acceptance of thinking of black people (Louis Armstong) as fools in cartoons.
Like in my post about the N-word as well as subsequent posts the question that is: because the group Digital Underground was a black group is the song “Humpty Dance” less offense; does it change the message? I’m not certain of that, but I do feel that Tupac Shakur certainly wasn’t interested in being a part of that particular message.
Relating the “Humpty Dance”, which I grew up with and didn’t think much more of it than a Funny song while I was growing up, and relating “Humpty Dance” to the discussion of blackface, if a white crew were to do the exact same songs but in Blackface, would it be offensive? In my opinion, I think that it would’ve been horrifically offensive. A white group wearing Blackface would be suggesting that the satire being presented in that song why is overly proportional to the black race; whereas Digital Underground performed the song, I feel, held the message, although presenting Harlequinesque, a intentional ridicule of popular music.
What about the movie “Tropical Thunder“? Where Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, his roll in a movie, was in Blackface. Maybe I was just unaware but I do not recall there being any conflicts when that movie came out of Robert Downey Jr. performing in Blackface. There have been other examples of Blackface, for instance in the TV show “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” the characters filmed their own version of “Lethal Weapon” “Lethal Weapon V” with one of the characters playing the role of Roger Murtaugh who in the first five was played by Danny Glover a black man. The question that keeps battering around inside of my head is: at what point in time does it become offensive, does it get a pass especially when the intention is to parody and satirize?
Offensive to one, many, most? I am certain that no matter what you say and no matter what the situation is you can find someone to be offended by something that may not be intended to offend anyone. Does it make it wrong because someone is offended by a message? Does it make it wrong because many are offended by the message? Does it make it wrong if most people are offended by it? At what point does something turn someone says or presents not okay to be presented? To answer this I would suggest that it’s a very personal and unique case for every single instance.
Each person who is saying and/or presenting something needs to identify what their purpose is and whether what they say and/or do is going to achieve that purpose. Can it be understood if someone has a slip of the tongue and accidentally said something offensive? Sure. Is it possible that these people may unintentionally offend someone or many people? Certainly. Should there be an understanding and forgiveness of a flawed statement, as we are all human and therefore make mistakes? I would like to think so. I would hope that others would forgive me if I erred. As someone who is interested in pushing limits as well as asking questions, to push limits, boundaries, and different people’s comfort zone’s I also wonder if the intentional saying of things that are offensive may purposefully push limits and the comforts of others. In America, we are given the right, by the Bill of Rights, to freedom of speech. But even those rights have limits. Although it may be offensive, I feel that as long as what people say and/or do is within the boundaries of the Bill of Rights, which has quite the wide breadth, there is absolutely nothing to restrict these people from saying or doing these things. As I have mentioned before in other posts, whether I agree with what they say or not they are entitled to present whatever is that they want to present.
We the People of United States have the privilege to ignore, protest, boycott, or ridicule and parody the foibles of people whom we find offensive, insensitive and wrong with their actions and/or statements.