The reason some Black people get pissed whenever some poor white soul throws on Blackface then runs around acting a fool is because of the thought of us, as a people, getting clowned. But really, and I mean, seriously, be honest: do you know any Black people that act like the white people you’ve seen wearing Blackface? If so, you need to change your social circle.
Blackfaced whites are so clearly an absurdity that we should, if we thought about it deeper, laugh right along with them. But we don’t think about it deeper because we get mad on some Pavlovian level – like the word “nigger” does to us, really, when uttered by a white – and the idea of “disrespect” becomes an issue. Our skin’s too thin. We’re haunted. Everything that’s even nearly a violation we swear a blood oath against. Fuck that. Not having it. Somebody’s gotta pay. Well, ok. Consider this; if you were to put on “Whiteface”, how would you act?
Would you act a fool and make gorilla noises and jump and clown and dance and buck? Of course not. But why not? Well, not because white people aren’t known for such antics. Anybody that’s ever seen a Premiere League football game knows the opposite to be true. The reason you wouldn’t act like an animal or a wild fool or a savage when acting “white” is that the perceived nature of whiteness is control.
Think about exactly what I’m saying here.
White people put on Blackface and get “loose”, but if you were to put on Whiteface, you’d likely have to be under control. You’d have to tighten up. In Silver Streak, Richard Pryor asks Gene Wilder why “whiteys have such a tight ass“. The stereotypical white walk is controlled. Even the stereotypical way they talk, high, nasal and congested -something similar to a bird’s ‘honk’, thus the coined racial slur “honky” – is controlled and tight. If you were to believe all the stereotypes about white people, they are a tight, controlled group!
And why don’t we wear Whiteface? Is it because we can’t find white or peach colored shoe polish? Is it because “acting white” is already a pejorative? Or is it because acting white is no fucking fun?
Now, think about Blackface. White people have been doing that shit since the 1400s. Two movies that feature major actors in Blackface, Yankee Doodle Dandy staring James Cagney, and The Jazz Singer staring Al Jolson, are both listed in the AFI’s original list of the Top 100 films of all time.
And certainly ‘control’ isn’t an idea that’s inbred. You are controlled up until the point where you can control yourself. Now imagine all this control. Some of it within your control, but most of it, the overriding concept at least, beyond your control.
Now think about Black people. Real Black people. After all the work that’s been put in to make us feel subpar, we still find a way to have a good time. Amazing, right?
Kinda makes you understand how a white person might wanna throw on an Afro wig and go get down to a Parliament Funkadelic song. They’d do it as an escape. And what does it say about our poor white brethren if they need to escape to us and we never need to escape to them?
Ok, not never. There’s exactly one Whiteface representation that I can think of and here it is:
And that shit more made fun than looked fun. Shit, if walking around like that is the price to pay for dancing on the bus and unlimited loan potential, I’ll stay poor and Black.
The most important thing to remember is that when white people don Blackface, they’re not showing you how Black people behave, they’re showing you how they’d behave if they were Black.
Because as bizarre as this aspiration may seem, it’s rooted in a notion we’ve been hearing since the Dubya Bush administration, simply in a difference context.
So why is it that some white people need the escape that only Blackface can provide?
They hate our freedom.