In the News, Julianne Hough has been receiving criticism for her choice of Halloween costume—namely Crazy Eyes of Orange is the New Black fame.   My question is why?  She didn’t don blackface to portray a nameless, faceless parody of all blacks (African Americans), she put on black face makeup to simulate the face (and hairdo I might add) of her favorite African American character.  Where is the harm?

Would it have been different if an African American chose Judge Judy as her Halloween costume?  Would she not have to don a wig?  Would she not have to don white face make up?  If she did not, would anyone know who she was imitating?  Probably not.

That being the case, was Julianne Hough supposed to don the hair and garb of her character choice and skip the fact that her choice is an African American?  Would you have guessed who she was imitating is she had not donned the skin coloring?  Probably not.

Now, do not misunderstand.  Blackface is incredibly offensive.  It marks a period of history where African Americans were treated as little more than circus clowns and toys for white Americans’ amusement.  Even today, signs of the quote unquote buffoonery can still be seen in certain aspects of entertainment.  Just a few years ago, it was used as a plot device for comedic effect, though I doubt anyone who noticed that was laughing.  Nevertheless, we must be able to distinguish between a simple—if poorly chosen/thought out—costume and one meant to offend.  Let’s face it, intent matters…as does effect.

As I hinted in a previous blog, there is a lot of confusion over what racism is and what it is not.  At the time, I stated that people seem anxious to label name calling racism and to ignore real racism such as what exists in the job market, in home buying, in choices of schools etc., for minorities.

I’ll/let’s revisit that.

Racism is not donning a costume for Halloween.  Racism is using that costume to inspire misery and feelings on insecurity for profit or entertainment.  Racism is not saying something that people do not like.  Racism is profiting or benefitting from the degradation and abuse of another group of people.  Racism is not mimicking.  It is destroying.  In the grand scheme of things, Julianne Hough’s actions amount to nearly nothing.

Julianne Hough did not cause the Federal Government to close down for three weeks for foolish reasons.  She didn’t name any of the sports teams in this country with offensive names like “Redskins” and then pretend that she doesn’t understand the true issue behind this choice of team name.  What she did was decide to dress up as her favorite television personality like most of us have been doing for years.  In fact, when challenged, she immediately backed down and apologized for her insult, however unintended it was.  I repeat, where is the harm?

Perhaps, just perhaps we should spend more time focusing on real issues of racism and not reduce ourselves or the struggle to squabbling over petty things.  A costume one day out of a year is not responsible for the imbalance in the law that benefits one group of people and harms another, nor is it responsible for the continued suffering of millions of people.  The fact is, we have much more of a pressing racial problem than whether or not some actress no one will even remember a few years down the line is engaging in cosplay.  Can anybody hear me?

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