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Blackface and Privilege

Kevin Palmer

By Kelvin Palmer

An October, 29, 2014, VOX.com article by Jenee Desmond Harris, Don’t get what’s wrong with blackface? Here’s why it’s so offensive, is a lesson for the racially privileged.

The article includes excerpts from a 2012 Huffington Post essay by David Leonard, Just Say No to Blackface. Leonard wrote, “Blackface is part of a history of dehumanization, of denied citizenship, and of efforts to excuse and justify state violence. From lynchings to mass incarceration, Whites have utilized Blackface (and the resulting dehumanization) as part of its moral and legal justification for violence.”

Moreover, connecting Blackface to privilege, Leonard said, “The ability to be ignorant, to be unaware of the history and consequences of racial bigotry, to simply do as ones pleases, is a quintessential element of privilege. The ability to disparage, to demonize, to ridicule, and to engage in racially hurtful practices from the comfort of one’s segregated neighborhoods and racially homogeneous schools reflects both privilege and power. The ability to blame others for being oversensitive, for playing the race card, or for making much ado about nothing are privileges codified structurally and culturally.”

Therefore, it appears blackface is the outward expression of inward hate.

 

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