From: The Stream

Why does the racist legacy of blackface endure?

Practice of darkening skin to portray people of other races is rooted in racism.

On Tuesday, September 24 at 19:30 GMT:
The latest controversy over the racist practice of blackface involves Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who last week apologised for instances in his past where he darkened his skin to portray people of another race. Photos republished by Time magazine show Trudeau dressed as Aladdin at an Arabian Nights-themed party in 2001 and as a black person singing “Day O” at a high school talent show. The controversy has reignited conversations about racism and white privilege.

Blackface, though, isn’t just an embarrassing episode of the past. It continues to appear in popular culture, media and advertising around the world. Blackface characters in Europe, including “Black Pete” in the Netherlands and Belgium’s “Le Sauvage”, have sparked protest from anti-racism activists and raised questions over how these traditions impact their respective communities of colour.

Blackface started in the United States in 19th-century minstrel shows where white actors donned black makeup to demean African Americans. The practice was accepted as mainstream American entertainment and became a cultural export.

We’ll discuss the legacy of blackface and learn more about its roots in racism. 

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with: 

Jerry Afriyie @TheRebelThePoet 
Poet and human rights activist

Charmaine Nelson
Professor of art history, McGill University

Leila Day @leiladayleila 
Host & producer of “The Stoop: Stories from the Black Diaspora”

Read more:
Canada’s surprising history of blackface – The Atlantic
How blackface – ‘America’s first cultural export’ – reinforces oppression across the world – PRI


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