Americans should be more aware about race issues

Emem Inyang

Dear Editor:

Around Martin Luther King Day people love to relish in the idea of ai???How far weai??i??ve come as a However, the explosion of social media magnifies how far we really havenai??i??t come and how desperately we as a society need to go regarding race relations. Whenever blatantly offensive events occur, those with basic understanding are almost programmed to say, ai???But itai??i??s 2016. How are these things still happening?ai???

These events still occur because more people are more concerned about being called a racist than trying to have the necessary hard and uncomfortable conversations to solve racism. Martin Luther King said that most people ai???prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of Itai??i??s almost as if calling someone the R-word causes more upset and backlash than calling someone the N-word.

Recently a Stroudsburg student posted a photo in blackface with an offensive caption and a Black History Month Snapchat filter. So in light of recent events I would like to spark the necessary and hard conversation to explain why blackface is offensive and unquestionably racist.

What is blackface? Blackface is when people who arenai??i??t black, typically white people, whether using makeup or even Snapchat drawing tools, make their skin appear black. In the 1800s blackface originated during minstrel shows. Minstrel shows were a form of entertainment where white actors would dress up as black people and recently freed slaves and perform comedies. Their skin was usually pitch black, hair unkempt, and bright overdrawn big lips. This form of entertainment is responsible for perpetuating most of the stereotypes concerning African-Americans that are still present today. If youai??i??ve ever heard someone say ai???Black people are so lazyai??? or ai???Black people are all dumb and criminalsai??? you can thank blackface and minstrel shows. Some of the characters from minstrel shows included:

  • Zip Coon (developed in 1834) was played by George Dixon. Dixon portrayed an arrogant, freed black slave that tried to be dignified, but fell short in his appearance and incapability to correctly pronounce his words.
  • The Mammy: usually a heavyset domestic black woman loyal to her master.
  • The Buck: An intimidating and frightening black man who loved white women.
  • The pickaninnies or children with unkempt hair. In minstrel shows pickaninnies were disposable. Children were usually depicted as unintelligent and impulsive and were easily hurt or killed in minstrel shows.
  • The Uncle Tom: A black man devoted to white ideals even though they might be damaging to his own race.
  • The Wench: A sexualized black woman or seductress, usually played by a man in a dress.

A major problem with minstrelsy and blackface was that many of the audiences viewing these shows had never been exposed to black people. So the audiences believed this is how black people actually acted and what they looked like. The first encounter some white audience members had with a black person was really a white actor with blackface using comedy to perpetuate harmful stereotypes. ai???Minstrelsy desensitized Americans to horrors of chattel slavery. These performances were object lessons about the harmlessness of southern slavery,ai??? Blair L. M. Kelley. Kelley also said, ai???By encouraging audiences to laugh, they showed bondage as an appropriate answer for the lazy, ignorant

After the Civil War ended minstrelsy was then used to breed the idea that Emancipation produced racial unrest and social violence. It perpetuated the idea that newly freed slaves were incapable to survive without the order and control slavery provided. Jim Crow, who was actually a white performer named Thomas ai???Daddyai??? Rice, would wear blackface while performing the song ai???Jump Jim This character would disrupt calm settings of white people, typically set in a public area like a restaurant. This act resulted in the term Jim Crow being equated as to why segregating black people from white areas was justified. Thank blackface for propagating the laws that enforced racial segregation, spurred the Civil Rights Act and didnai??i??t end up until recently in the 1960s. Ai??

Stroudsburg Area School District has done well at fostering an inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds. Though this is a school open to diversity, some are still misinformed or unaware of the history and implications of things like blackface. Blackface was used to subjugate and oppress African Americans and has no place in a school that is supposed ai???To empower all students in an active pursuit of
Emem Inyang