Recently, two incidents of blackface on social media have occurred at OSU. One occurred on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in some bizarre celebration for having the day off, while the other, posted to Snapchat, featured a girl in blackface with the caption “when he says he only likes black girls.”
The girl from the second incident, Kandice Burgess, posted an apology on Facebook later. saying ““I am deeply sorry for those that I have offended,” Burgess wrote. “My intentions were not at all to be racist. For anyone who knows me, you know I am not racist.” She continued, saying it was “a careless act without any consideration of others … With all of my heart, I am sorry. There was no part of me that aimed to hurt or offend anyone.” The OSU president, Burns Hargis, said that the school was working with these students to help them understand the consequences of their actions.
This article, however, could’ve been written at any point. Every year, it seems, someone posts something with blackface on social media. They then go on to say it was either careless or that they didn’t mean any offense. And, of course, they end with saying they’re not racists. Even Snapchat did it, offering a filter in April 2016 that altered faces to look like Bob Marley, complete with black skin.
It seems that somehow people haven’t gotten the message that blackface isn’t okay. Let me repeat that for you: Blackface. Isn’t. Okay. The practice originated from non-black performers imitating blacks in performances and helped to spread racist stereotypes. The imitation caricatured black features, and eventually black people took up the practice as well, so they could perform in some way to white audiences.
But apparently, it seems, people are ignorant of that history and also totally oblivious to the blackface scandals that have happened in the past. The girl who posted the Snapchat video said “I am being honest when I say that until this, occurrence, I have never heard of ‘blackface;’ that was not even the slightest what I was trying to say.” Not to doubt her claim, but the only way to have been ignorant to this issue is to have not paid attention to history class and news reports.
The only way to prevent this happening again is education. But when? Education has been tried — every year I seem to see posters declaring that it’s not cool to dress up as someone else’s ethnicity as a joke. To really change things, we need to educate people while they’re young. A friend of mine from a small town tried to explain the situation, saying that growing up in an all-white town, with the school teaching what they did, she wasn’t surprised that another person posted a photo in blackface. You can’t force diversity of people into those towns, but you can force diversity in education. Primary school would be the best place to do so, as those are the “formative years” of your life. Instead of teaching every small battle in the Revolutionary War, you can begin moving towards educating past the myopic view that focuses generally on white people, especially men. You don’t have to spend a week arguing about reparations, but discussing some of these topics would be helpful, so that these sort of incidents don’t occur.
For some towns, this will be difficult, if near impossible, to change. Colleges could take up the slack, but many already try to achieve this during orientation. Some of these programs have even earned ire for going overboard and being too “politically correct” for some people. Most programs probably don’t mention blackface, just because people don’t consider it necessary to do so, but they could start. Even if they don’t have the time to explain the history, a brief mentioning of how offensive it is could potentially decrease some of these incidents.