Poor Judgment, Not Racism

    Could we be seeing the return of “blackface” characters to the world’s stage?  Probably not.  But the recent French Vogue photo spread, Australian variety show performance, and Lil Wayne Halloween costume donned by an NFL cheerleader have me wondering just what some people are thinking.  Or — more specifically — why they aren’t thinking.    The Vogue photo spread, shot by American-born Steven Klein, featured the white model Lara Stone covered head-to-toe in black body paint and striking many different poses.  The ode to the Jackson Five performed on the Australian variety show “Hey Hey It’s Saturday” had the performers wearing afro wigs with their faces painted black and performing a choreographed dance routine.  And finally, the Halloween costume choice made by Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleader Whitney Isleib comprised of black body paint and a dred-lock wig.  The common characteristic found in these three events is poor judgment.   While I’m sure no one who participated in any of these controversial acts had any malicious intent, they still should have known better.  The world is not so far removed from Jim Crow characters and minstrel shows that whites dressed up as blacks for the purposes of entertainment would slide by unnoticed and without widespread outrage.  In fact, up until 40 years ago, Kakewalks — a form of minstrel show — were performed as a traditional part of UVM’s winter festival.  So  why, with all of the negative history surrounding the use of blackface, do people still insist on using it as part of artistic or, in the case of the Halloween costume, recreational endeavors?  There were other ways for Steven Klein to express his artistic visions, for performers to pay homage to Michael Jackson, and for Ms. Isleib to go trick-or-treating.  The body paint was unnecessary.I don’t, however, support the many critics who have come out in force to call these actions racist and condemn the perpetrators to burn for eternity in Hell’s fiery abyss.  All of these actions were simply misguided attempts at self-expression.  All of us, at one point, have put our foot in our mouth.  These were just three very large cases of foot-in-mouth syndrome that, unfortunately, got displayed to the whole world.  Hopefully, three equally large apologies are forthcoming, and then the events can — and should — be forgotten about.  There is always the freedom to express yourself, but please do it within the realm of common sense.  If what you are going to do may offend an entire race of people, then simply don’t do it.