Unfortunately, this past weekend was highlighted by a few Utahns who believe that everyone needs to “lighten up” and who, coincidentally, also believe that it’s OK to wear blackface.
On Saturday, Utah-based actress and Dancing With the Stars regular Julianne Hough decided to go to a Halloween party dressed as "Crazy Eyes" from the show Orange is the New Black, complete with an orange jumpsuit and dark bronzer.
Pic via Gawker
Then, on Sunday, the Utah Jazz's official Twitter account retweeted a picture of a pair of Jazz fans dressed as Karl Malone and John Stockton while posing the question, “Can anyone top this Jazz Halloween costume?” Which seems OK—except that The Mailman was a white kid in blackface.
Now, before you say, “This isn't racist. What about the movie White Chicks?”, know that Shawn and Marlon Wayans in whiteface are absent of any horrifying historical context whatsoever. Though the film is 100 percent shit, there’s no part of history where we should be overwhelming embarrassed over something called “whiteface.”
Sure, intent matters. Hough and white Karl Malone probably didn't mean anything malicious by wearing blackface. But whether or not you can empathize with something doesn't mean people aren't offended. It's like the asshole who waves around a Confederate flag and claims the flag's only meaning is that he's a Skynyrd fan.
So, to the publicists, social-media directors and people who have yet to take a history class, by now you should know that blackface is the most efficient way to let others know you’re prone to ending conversations with “It’s OK, I have a black friend.” But more importantly, blackface, much like Klan hoods, is a symbol of a very unfortunate part of America’s past. Spawned from the pre-Civil War minstrel shows, these embarrassing spectacles basically portrayed how whites viewed blacks and revolved around white actors painting their faces black, speaking in a slow drawl and generally acting like half-human buffoons.
Though toned down from its minstrel-show roots, modern day blackface is still just as racist, and these "jokes" are always grounded in truth. Just ask Tyler Christensen of Nibley, Utah, the one dressed as John Stockton (above), who has spent the past 48 hours defending himself on Twitter against claims that he’s a bigot. He says that his and his friend’s costumes were just a joke. However, after a quick browse through his past tweets, you stumble on posts like this:
Christensen has not apologized for the costume. However, both the Jazz and Hough have since issued apologies and distanced themselves from the issue. Hough wrote on her Twitter account that “I am a huge fan of the show Orange is the New Black, actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created. It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize.”
And, of course, about two minutes after the Jazz got super-pumped on blackfaced-white-guy Karl Malone, they deleted the tweet and wrote, “We apologize for last tweet/retweet moments ago, we have taken it down as it may be insensitive.”
Every year, this happens, and every year bewildered white folks are like, "Come on, what's the big deal?!" So, write this on your hand if you have to: Blackface equals bad, and remember, when choosing your next Halloween costume (or endorsing one), if you have to ask yourself, “Sooo, is this racist?”, it most definitely is. Every. Single. Time. It is.