Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is Blackface Racist, Bad Taste or Art?

By: Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com

Pundits are asking whether some folks may be taking this post-racial thing a little too far.

A year after Vogue Italia published an edition featuring all-black models to draw attention to the lack of opportunity for black women on high-fashion runways, the French edition of Vogue put a model in blackface.

An episode of “America’s Next Top Model” took the contestants to a sugar cane field in Hawaii and, after a short explanation of immigrants coming to work in the fields, race mixing and the resulting mixed-raced children, the models were assigned mixed heritages and colorized with makeup to create the images and ethnicities that Banks admitted may not necessarily have been culturally accurate, but were a fashion “interpretation” of what their blends could look like.

An Asian, for example, was dressed as half-Botswanan and half Polynesian. You get the picture.

Last month, Harry Connick Jr. nearly walked off the set of an Australian TV show he was guest-judging when a group parodying the Jackson Five came onstage in blackface. Two months ago, a lead character in the hit, 1960s-set drama "Mad Men" performed a song in blackface.

Is it racist, bad taste or a bit of artistic license? Gazelle Emami, writing on The Huffington Post, said Banks went from over the top to offensive with the lastest stunt. “Call it what you want, but that's basically a euphemism for putting them in blackface,” Emami wrote. But others disagreed.“I don't see this as blackface,” cultural critic Michaela Angela Davis told BlackAmericaWeb.com in an e-mail. “Perhaps a little lacking in substance, like why didn't each model have to research the cultures or at the very least have a ‘mood board’ of images of the cultures they are interpreting, which most seasoned photographers and editors do? But, alas, this is reality TV and a new photographer, though not new in fashion.

Davis, in an opinion piece for Essence.com, said the real post-racial news is in the power that First Lady Michelle Obama exhibits as a fashion icon and how it turns the table on how black women can now be viewed.“Much of white mainstream identity has benefited from and counted on black women being portrayed as sick, poor, ignorant, abused and sexually deviant or just a loud, hot ghetto mess. Our pitiful position secured, and in some ways created, their position on the pedestal. What now? Is it really time for the white standard of beauty to step off?

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thegayte-keeper said...

I think it is art...

Kenny C. said...

depends on the medium if it's art or is the person behind the "art" trying to invoke more?

I think it needs to be looked at on a case-by-case situation.




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