When I was 13, I sang a solo in our middle school’s year end presentation. It was Summertime from the musical, Porgy and Bess. About two weeks before the production, school was released for the day and I made my way to the choir room for after school rehearsals. Before I could get down the first hallway there was a gathering of students, they were all black, who stood in a line across the hallway and stopped me from passing. They accused me of planning to paint my face black for the performance. What? That thought had never entered my mind. We were barely teenagers! After threats of getting my ass kicked, I finally convinced them I had no malicious intent and they let me pass.
I was reminded of this traumatic confrontation recently when I heard that black pumpkins were being banned in some areas because they are insensitive to the black face issue. What?
In a September 19, 2019, CNN article, the author wrote, “It doesn’t matter what skin tone you’re trying to portray. Blackface, brownface, yellowface, redface. Any colored-face you wear that isn’t yours is racist.”
Is this over sensitivity creating a nation where free opinions are no longer welcome? Where actors are censored before they are allegedly abused on the casting couch? Of course, if you don’t like the black pumpkin, don’t buy it and don’t display it. It is not a person trying to be confrontational. It’s a pumpkin! The manufacturer of the black pumpkin likely never gave it a second thought as Halloween colors have always been black and orange! (Well, now we have teal pumpkins for the allergy stricken trick-or-treaters, but that’s another topic.)
I think political correctness is going too far. White women use tanning cream and go to sun tanning booths to look darker. Michael Jackson lightened his skin to look paler. Shouldn’t we have the freedom to do what we want to our own skin, to our own bodies?
When painting black face was popular in entertainment, even black actors donned the paint. Audiences found the characters funnier, but some blacks – African Americans to be PC – were offended with accusations that the black man was being portrayed as lazy or ignorant. Isn’t laziness and ignorance often passed off as comedy? Think Dumb and Dumber; would there have been racial outrage if the characters were played by Wesley Snipes and Denzel Washington, rather than Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels?
Actors are actors, they are acting. This topic is very similar to the question that was on the lips of many of Hollywood’s who’s who earlier this year, “Should a straight actor portray a gay character?”
Before jumping to conclusions that everyone’s motives are racist, why don’t we slip into their shoes first. You don’t know what the other person is really thinking… not until we, as a society, let our defenses down and have an open and honest conversation with one another.