Blackface: History And Legacy

Blackface: History And Legacy

The history of blackface and how it influenced race relations today
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Alright kids! So I had some serious writer’s block and couldn’t decide what to write about, so I flipped a coin to decide. It landed on tails, so now I have to do an article on a serious and relevant topic, so in light of this, I decided to do it on a very controversial topic: race. More specifically, I’ve decided to do it on “blackface,” an act in which white Americans would put on makeup and portray African Americans in various forms of media. The act of blackface helped to perpetuate many stereotypes about African Americans that still exist today. Blackface has a long and foul history, so sit down and buckle up, because we’re going on an adventure through time.

Blackface first began in the 1820s at the start of the era of minstrel shows. Minstrel shows were shows put on by white people wearing blackface and consisted of comedy skits, dancing and music. They usually portrayed blacks as lazy, dim-witted, buffoonish, superstitious and musical. As minstrel shows gained increased popularity over the course of the 19th century, the portrayal of blacks in these shows caused Americans to form distinct stereotypes about African Americans and most people expected blacks to conform to at least one of these stereotypes. These include the “mammy,” the motherly figure who was the core of plantation families; the “dandy,” who was a northern black man who attempted to mimic white, upper-class dress and speech to no avail; and the “Buck,” a large black man who is proud, sometimes menacing, and usually chases after white women. Makeup for blackface usually consisted of a layer of burnt cork over cocoa butter (substituted with black grease paint in later years) and red or white lips painted around their mouths. Costumes were gaudy combinations of formal wear and performers usually spoke in a “plantation” dialect. Entertainment included imitating black music and dance as well as a variety of jokes, skits and songs that were based on stereotypes of black slaves. In early years, minstrel shows were used to romanticize slavery and portrayed slaves as simple and cheerful, always ready to please their master. Overtime, they became a source of cheap entertainment at the expense of black people.

By the start of World War I, minstrel shows had mostly died out, but by then, blackface began to see its way into other forms of media, notably movies. Perhaps one of the most notable acts of blackface in film was D.W. Griffith’s "The Birth of a Nation". The film portrayed African Americans (played by white men wearing blackface) as unintelligent and aggressive towards women. Later, blackface was used by the star of "The Jazz Singer," who portrayed a Jewish performer using blackface to perform jazz songs on stage. Blackface took shape in many other forms over the course of the first half of the 20th century. The radio show Amos ‘n’ Andy, whose popularity resulted in a subsequent television show, saw actors Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll don blackface and speak in exaggerated, stereotypical voice characterizations. Many cartoons during this time, dubbed the “golden age of animation,” featured many of the same racist stereotypes that find their roots in minstrel shows. Walt Disney, for example, released "Fantasia" in 1940 and "Song of the South" in 1946. "Fantasia" had to have several shots cut from "The Pastoral Symphony" due to the fact that these shots featured racist stereotypes while "Song of the South" was flat out called racist due to the poor way it portrayed race relations in the post-Civil War south. Movies, television, and radio all apparently endorsed blackface and poor stereotypes of blacks during this time, with very few efforts beyond protests by the NAACP being made to stop it.

“Okay,” I hear you saying, “but that was then, right? Blackface was a big thing back then, but that isn’t an issue with television now, right?” Well, not exactly. The Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s resulted in blackface in being banned from television, especially after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 eliminated “separate but equal” laws. However, the stereotypes that were created and endorsed by blackface entertainment would have a lasting effect. For example, shows such as "Diff'rent Strokes" and "The Jeffersons" incorporated various stereotypes that were popular during the minstrel era, such as coons and mammies. Also, the 70s saw the rise of a genre of film known as “Blacksploitation” films. Such films often centered on a black anti-hero with a supporting cast consisting of stereotypes of pimps, whores, and criminals and most, if not all, were African American. The antagonists of said shows were usually white cops or politicians who were corrupt and exploited poor black communities. These films received huge backlash from African American community leaders, arguing that they were offensive and were a major reason that blacks were still oppressed during this time, and by 1980 the entire genre had died as a result. But what about today? Well, even today, television and movies still seem to capitalize off of black stereotypes. "The Cleveland Show," for example, has been criticized for pretty much being "Family Guy" in blackface that played on negative black stereotypes for humor. Similarly, Tyler Perry shows and movies are sometimes criticized for utilizing these same stereotypes. Perry’s most famous character, Madea, is based on the “mammy” stereotype, for example. Characters from shows such as "House of Payne" and "Meet the Browns" also incorporate blackface stereotypes.

So we’ve talked about blackface as portrayed on T.V. and movies, but what about in real life? Blackface is a very relevant topic and one of the most controversial. In today’s context, the actual use of blackface is used to mock and belittle African Americans and is seen by most, if not all, people in the black community as one of the highest forms of insults, second probably only to the n-word. But besides the actual act of blackface, the legacy left by it is a major issue today. Remember, minstrel shows back in the 19th and early 20th century gave many whites their first glimpse into black culture and helped set the ground for many of the stereotypes surrounding black culture up to the present day. The “mammy” stereotype, for example, has become the overbearing, strict, no-nonsense maternal figure. Even if some stereotypes have died down, new ones have taken their place. These include stereotypes about gang-bangers, drug addicts, and the ever popular “kid who never knew his dad” stereotype. If you’re black, then you must know at least 3 guys in a gang, you must come from the hood and you just must love rap music. You probably smoke weed, you probably drink Hennessey and you probably stole that watch you’re wearing. These are all stereotypes that can find their roots in the stereotypes that were originally created as a result of blackface.

Look, I know that the issue of race is a touchy subject, but it’s something that needs to be talked about. Blackface is an issue that has left a lasting legacy over the last two centuries. If we ever hope to move forward as a nation and as a species as a whole, we must learn from the mistakes of our ancestors. History doesn’t have to repeat itself if we don’t let it. And so ends our history lesson. I hope we all learned something from this.

Cover Image Credit: Vinyl Me, Please

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Things To Know Before Dating A Firefighter

You'll learn how to tell the difference between different kinds of sirens.
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There are just certain things you are going to want to know before dating a fireman. In my experience, I had to learn along the way. But at the end of all the calls, constantly smelling his gear in the car and sometimes even cancelled plans, I sure do love my firefighter!

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons To Date A Country Boy

You were promised a list, so here it is:

1. If they are even within 20 minutes of the station, they will always leave you to go on a call.

No matter the circumstances, if you have a fireman on your hands, he will jet to the car and be on his way.

SEE ALSO: What It's Like To Date A Police Officer

2. Meeting nights are not something you try and fight with them about. They are going to leave and you do not have to like it because it wasn't up to you anyway.

I have learned that these nights are not optional. Yes, other people miss them, but not my firefighter.

3. No matter where you are or what you're doing the minute they hear a firetrucks horn, they're looking for it and hoping they're not missing anything good.

You will learn the lingo. Structures, fully involved (the good stuff) smoke alarms, cat in a tree (ehh I mean they are fireman...soooo still good stuff).

4. They know the exact difference between an ambulance, cop, and, of course, a fire truck siren.

Which means that you will have to learn, too.

5. You’ll have to accept that when he has to do hall rental cleanup, you're going with to help.

You fold the chairs and he stacks them. And Im talking at like 12 a.m.,1 a.m.

6. When you come around the firehouse, there will be jokes made and they'll mess with him about you or even you about him.

Honestly it's a giant bromance going on and they prey on this kinda stuff.

7. At first, you won't really have a name to the fire guys. Until you're around long enough.

You'll just be Boyfriend's name's girlfriend.

8. The fire pager goes where he goes.

Next to the bed, in the car, next to your bed, your living room, EVERYWHERE. And even if it's not the real pager, it's the dog app that I can never remember the name of so dog app it is. (Say that really fast to get the full effect).

9. They will probably wear their station shirt/apparel at least 4-5 days a week.

AT LEAST.

10. If you've got a good one, you're always put first. The list will always go "You, the firehouse, me, everyone else."

But secretly they always want to put the firehouse first.

11. You will learn and know more stations, trucks, members, and chiefs than you will ever want to admit.

Unbelievably true.

12. When you're driving and you see a fire station, you'll have to look at it.

If its an amazing building, you'll have to remember the name. And then you'll have to tell him about it. And then you've just proved number 11 correct. Add it to your list.

13. Never make plans while he's on a call. You can never know when he'll be back.

Even if the calls are short, they could stay at least another hour washing the trucks and being boys, of course.

14. In case you didn't understand the severity of the first one, if you are on the phone and you hear the pager go off in the background, just tell him you love him and hang up.

Because if you don't, he will. "Got a call, Love you, bye." Mid-sentence is always what you want to hear.

15. You'll never want to watch "Ladder 49" again.

You will cry like a baby and then want to make him quit.

16. Outside of the stations, fireman tend to forget that fire isn't a toy and it's pretty damn hot.

*Playing with the lighter fluid or burning things on the stove*
"No it's alright, I'm a firefighter."

17. You will start your own station shirt collection.

From NYFD memorial shirts, a station from where you're vacationing even acquired old shirts of his, you will have started your own pile of station shirts.

18. You can't get angry or upset when he is unavailable because he's going to go to the firehouse for the fifth time that week, or if there's another fire prevention thing to do.

You can't be mad because he's doing what he loves and also because a man in a uniform isn't too shabby.

There are a lot more things to know before dating a fireman, but the rest you'll just have to learn along the way.

SEE ALSO: 5 Things To Know Before Dating Someone With Anxiety

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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I Spoke With A Group Of DACA Recipients And Their Stories Moved Me To Tears

An experience that forever changed my perspective on "illegal" immigrants.

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I thought I was just filming about a club meeting for a project, but when I entered the art-filled room located in a corner of the student common area, I knew this experience would be much more than a grade for a class.

I was welcomed in by a handful of people wearing various Arizona State hoodies and T-shirts that were all around my age. They were college students, like myself, but something felt different when talking to them. They were comforting, shy at first, and more driven than the peers that I usually meet.

As I began to look around the room, I noticed a good amount of art, murals, religious pieces, and a poster that read, "WE STAND WITH DREAMERS." The club was meant for students at ASU that are either undocumented or DACA recipients.

Photo by Amanda Marvin

As a U.S. citizen college student, you typically tend to think about your GPA, money, and dating. As a DACA recipient college student, there are many more issues crowding your brain. When I sat down at a club meeting for students my age dealing with entirely different problems as me, my eyes were opened to bigger issues.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program allows for individuals that crossed the border as children to be protected from deportation and to go to school or work. Commonly known as DREAMers, these individuals are some of the most hard-working, goal-oriented and focused people I have met, and that's solely because they have to be.

In order to apply to be a DACA recipient, it is required that the applicant is attending school with a high school diploma, or a military veteran, as well as have a clean criminal record. While being a DACA recipient does not mean that you can become a permanent citizen of the United States, it allows for opportunities that may not be offered in their home country.

It's no secret that the United States has dealt with immigration in a number of ways. From forming new policies to building a wall on our nation's border, we see efforts to keep immigrants from entering the U.S. every day. But what about the people who are affected?

As the club members and I began a painting activity regarding where we came from and how we got to where we are today, I began to feel the urge to cry.

Photo by Amanda Marvin

One girl described the small Mexican town that she grew up in and the family that still resides there. She went on to talk about how important education is to her family and so much so that it was the cause of her family's move to the United States when she was still a child. Her voice wavered when she talked about the changing immigration policies that prevent her from seeing her family in Mexico.

Another member of the club, a boy with goals of becoming a journalist, talked of his depression and obstacles regarding growing up as an undocumented student. Once he was told by his father that he was illegal, he began to set himself apart from his peers and became someone he did not think he would ever be.

All of my worries seemed small in comparison to theirs, and I felt a pang of regret for realizing I take my own citizenship for granted every single day.

Terminating the policy would lead to the displacement of about 800,000 people. We tend to forget about the human aspect of all of this change, but it's the most important part.

For more information about this club, visit https://www.facebook.com/USEEASU/

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