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      Follow-Up On Blackface

      State of Race

      America Circa 2019

      This seemed to me an exchange worth underscoring:



      February 8, 2019


      Ray Cunneff:

      It's difficult for white people, myself included, to appreciate the visceral reaction that people of color have to the imagery of someone in blackface, much like the reaction to the Confederate flag. So while it's a good thing to educate ourselves, and to explore our own racial attitudes, we have to accept that we can never really "know" it.

      That's why we should never presume to understand or to judge it.


      Dajuan Candle:

      Most white folks don't get that it isn't just humor. Blackface is a dehumanizing act, donned to reaffirm white supremacy. It declares that the people being mocked, compared to their god given greatness, are worthless pieces of excrement. That is its history. A history, sadly, most people aren't knowlegable of. Even some blacks, who were taught that being taught history didn't allow old wounds to heal, don't know and answer when asked "no, I don't find it offensive" -- and that I find appalling.


      Ray Cunneff:

      I don't know... For me, the sharp cusp of this perceptual dilemma is "Amos 'n' Andy".

      As a kid, I found these characters warm, positive and timelessly funny. They were relatable and sympathetic. Yet I can understand that, from a modern black perspective, they seemed negative stereotypes. Certainly the slow-motion "Lightnin'" represented a lazy black man right out of a minstrel show caricature, but the rest of the characters seemed much richer and more universally identifiable and sympathetic.

      I'm sure it didn't help the case for this show that it was created and played on radio by two white guys, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll. But on TV, the characters were played by a talented all-black cast who created fully-realized portrayals led by Spencer Williams and Tim Moore.

      The show's albeit fictional vision of Harlem in the 1950's was of a vibrant community filled with diverse and, forgive the expression, "colorful" people, and was for decades the only place a broad American television audience could experience black life and come away with a genuine affection.



      A follow-up thought:

      White audiences in the 1950's didn't generally object to "The Honeymooners" as a negative stereotype, despite the fact that they lived in a squalid tenement apartment with a view of a fire escape, because we had so many other idealized white family archetypes.

      Therefore the fact that Ralph was a brutish low-wage bus driver, verbally abusive to his long-suffering housewife Alice and his friend Norton was a moron who worked in a sewer, it just came in odd juxtaposition to the countless, reassuringly conformist upscale white television families. There were no Huxtable's or "The Jefferson's" to offset the relatively meager circumstances of "Amos 'n' Andy".


      https://www.vox.com/2014/10/29/7089591/why-is-blac...


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          Ray Cunneff
          3 months ago

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          It also shows how such attitudes and behavior influence young people. Thoughts and actions are transmitted by communities and parenting where racism and hate are often given birth.

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              Ray Cunneff
              3 months ago

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              I find this issue profoundly difficult. The example of Herring in Virginia who used blackface as part of his costume as a black rapper. The sin here is not intent, but perhaps ignorance. The fact that we cannot distinguish between the 2 says more about where we are at as a society than about Herring, IMHO.


              The racial dynamics in this country are still out of whack, the inevitable aftermath of a shameful and traumatic history. We have not yet found our way to an equilibrium. To me, equilibrium is the point where the past is acknowledged and understood, where we can allow ourselves to respect the sensitivities of others, and where intent is a crucial factor in our judgement of actions and words.

              Indeed an issue worth discussing!

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                  Ray Cunneff
                  3 months ago

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                  The blackface in the photos of politicians now in the news was clearly an effort to mock.

                  I have not seen Amos and Andy, but from your description here, it does not sound like an effort to mock. So I'd like to hear whether others think the intent or the context makes a difference?

                  Joy Behar adopted African characteristics for a costume, and has been criticized for it.

                  Actors sometimes dress as people of other ethnicities for their roles, and individuals fairly commonly adopt a skin color or hair color of another race. When is this a firing offense and when is it fashion? Does intent and context make a difference?




                  https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2019/02...

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                      alohacowboy
                      3 months ago

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                      Excellent question.

                      For me, intent and context are very important, just as in crimes/the law they are taken into consideration. However, IMO the ignorance excuse is only good if it is authentic, and one is eager to provide a sincere apology if learning of an offense.

                      Cultural conditioning may render a person truly ignorant, but that does not excuse ridicule. . . . and ridicule is not always blatant, but is sometimes subtle.

                      When adopting dress or hairstyles from an ethnicity different from one’s own, I consider how it could be a compliment. Many fair skinned people -both men and women - wore what is called an afro hair style in the late 70s and early 80s for example.

                      People make mistakes, especially if they are still evolving (and who isn’t?).

                      Shared.

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                              alohacowboy
                              3 months ago

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                              I can be deeply offensive, intentionally - sarcastic mocking superior and demeaning often to make a point sometimes to let off steam. For me to join the crusade against a fundamental Constitional value because something is unkind is just ludicrous. Either you want open free and passionate expression or you don’t.

                              If one side continues its ‘zero tolerance’ for certain unkindness while reveling in other types of expression, its no wonder the sides can’t communicate the rules are never universal they are partisian.

                              Some folks should be called out some ideas are offensive, don’t cut this off at the knees we need to understand what the hell is going on in the minds of all the factions. Not understanding not listening nourished and elected Trump, there is no advantage to hiding anymore, the worst is done, move on

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                                      alohacowboy
                                      3 months ago

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                                      In my opinion, intent and context make all the difference. In my mind, these three instances in Virginia were indeed mocking and racist, only slightly mitigated by some apparent, and most likely unthinking, southern nostalgia for the Confederacy, that whole "Gone With The Wind" mindset.

                                      As for "Amos 'n' Andy", I've been watching some old episodes and there are indeed some elements that are cringeworthy through 2019 eyes, but I'm convinced that the overall intent was affectionate.

                                      It was undoubtedly very broad comedy and there are many sequences that are reminiscent of Laurel & Hardy* or other classic comedic performances. I think it would benefit the entire conversation about race in America to revisit this slice of television and cultural history and appreciate it for what it was.


                                      * If you haven't seen the new "Stan & Ollie", I highly recommend it.


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