Blackface Is Extra Complicated Than Rose and Blanche’s Mud Masks


In June 2020, Hulu eliminated an episode of Golden Women the place Rose (performed by Betty White) and Blanche (performed by Rue McClanahan) awkwardly meet a Black household sporting mud masks. Within the episode, Dorothy’s son is engaged to a Black lady and the scene takes place when her household arrives to satisfy Dorothy’s household. Simply as they enter the Golden Women’ residence, Rose and Blanche barrel by the kitchen door sporting mud masks. There’s an ungainly silence, crammed with fun observe that reveals Dorothy reacting in horror. Rose awkwardly tries to elucidate their actions by saying, “That is mud on our faces, we’re probably not Black!” The interplay is shortly forgotten as Dorothy’s son enters the scene to be launched to the Black household and the core battle of the episode is revealed: an interracial marriage.

The removing of the episode has prompted controversy and push again from throughout the Black group with many calling the motion pointless. Echoing these Black voices, I agree this removing ignores actual points with the legacy of Blackface in our society. It additionally ignores the intent behind the joke.

Golden Women was a progressive present for its time. Whereas it was centered across the experiences of 4 white girls, it additionally was inclusive of different narratives. Being based mostly in Miami, the present recurrently hosted tales that handled the struggles of Latinx immigrants. By means of Dorothy, a substitute trainer, we have been usually given glimpses right into a struggling instructional system. With Rose’s work as a counselor, we frequently noticed the failings of the psychological well being care system. And Blanche? She was a sexual icon earlier than the women of Intercourse and the Metropolis marched onto HBO. Blanche was unapologetically sexual. Then after all, we had Sophia, the rock of the group. Sophia was an immigrant lady who fled an undesirable marriage in Sicily and was not above organized prison conduct to get what she needed. The present was about 4 girls who have been lively characters with targets, complexities, and hopes.

The present addressed many tough subjects. In a time when the U.S. authorities was ignoring the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Golden Women addressed how this illness was inflicting social concern and anxiousness (season 5, episode 19). Was the present excellent? In no way. As Steven W. Thrasher addressed in his latest Vulture article, the present has its moments that will make 2020 audiences squirm of their seats. That being mentioned, the joke on the coronary heart of the controversy isn’t problematic. To really perceive it, it have to be checked out with context and, extra importantly, intent.  

To echo Rebecca Wanzo, ‘The joke is the state of affairs, not Black individuals.’ That is what separates placing one thing darkish in your face from Blackface: intent.

The joke is centered round a (temporary) miscommunication between two teams of individuals. Rose and Blanche don’t placed on the mud masks to mock or belittle Black individuals. They put them on as a part of a skincare regiment. They don’t burst into the room to shuck and jive in entrance of a Black household, they have been strolling by a door of their home. The joke can be based mostly on the viewers’s information of Rose and Blanche. When the ladies enter the room sporting mud masks, we all know that Rose and Blanche will not be doing a reenactment of a minstrel present. Viewers know the intent was innocent and we see them horrified on the state of affairs and miscommunication going down. The joke lands effectively as a result of it’s not a Blackface joke. To echo Rebecca Wanzo, “The joke is the state of affairs, not Black individuals.” That is what separates placing one thing darkish in your face from Blackface: intent.

The intent of Blackface is to degrade and humiliate Black individuals. As assistant professor of historical past at California State College San Bernardino, Marc A. Robinson acknowledged in a latest interview: “This make up [Blackface] was generally used as a part of comedic performances that caricatured Black individuals. On the floor stage then, the aim of Blackface was to visually symbolize Black individuals and entertain the largely white audiences. However, on a deeper stage, students argue that Blackface, as a part of these comedies or “Minstrel Exhibits,” bolstered beliefs of Black inferiority and white supremacy.”

Blackface has historic roots in Black terror and ache. Whereas minstrel reveals have been being carried out throughout the USA, Black individuals additionally lived beneath risk of organized violence from lynch mobs and unfair legal guidelines that saved them from succeeding socially and economically. Blackface doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s straight related to the intention of inflicting psychological ache upon Black individuals. That is the explanation for controversy round Blackface; it’s correlated with a horrific previous. Mud masks will not be.

Blackface doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s straight related to the intention of inflicting psychological ache upon Black individuals.

A mud masks inside itself isn’t Blackface. Nevertheless, donning a mud masks after which utilizing that second to faux to be Black or mock Black individuals crosses the road into using a skincare remedy right into a racist motion that has roots in violence. The Golden Women didn’t use this joke to mock Black individuals. Eradicating the episode in hopes of avoiding criticism is problematic as a result of it creates a notion that Black individuals are anti-mud masks and something resembling Blackface is offensive. The truth is, nonetheless, Black individuals can simply determine after we are being mocked versus when somebody is making an attempt to get clean pores and skin.

As firms attempt to think about how one can align themselves with Black activists, they need to determine how their actions will be helpful to the Black group. One of the best ways to do that? Hear. It could appear a radical thought, however the actuality is many Black individuals have repeatedly spoken on how firms can help their communities. From holding extra anti-racism coaching classes to hiring extra Black individuals, there are methods to tangibly help the Black group.

I perceive why Hulu eliminated this episode, from a public relations standpoint, and don’t consider it was completed with the intent of trivializing Black individuals’s emotions in direction of Blackface. Nevertheless, how the motion was acquired ought to ship messages to companies. Particularly, it must be a dialog starter on how companies can do higher in listening and making modifications that Black communities need and wish from them. 

Need to be taught extra about Dr. Marc A. Robinson? Comply with him on Twitter.

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