blueollie

Past sins, black face, offensive stuff

We’ve seen public figures being pressured to resign due to incidents where they did offensive things in the past. So, what constitutes something that should lead to resignation?

Clearly, this sort of thing calls for resignation:

Thursday morning, Michael Ertel, appointed Secretary of State by Gov. Ron DeSantis weeks earlier, testified before a House committee about the several lawsuits filed over the 2018 election.

By mid-afternoon, Ertel turned in his resignation, after photos emerged of him posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface at a private Halloween party 14 years ago, two months after 1,800 people were killed by the massive storm. […]

The photo was taken in 2005, eight months after Ertel was appointed Seminole County supervisor of elections and two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

Here, an official mocked black hurricane victims.

On the other hand, this is completely different:

The third-ranking elected official in Virginia, Attorney General Mark R. Herring, acknowledged Wednesday that he had worn blackface at a party as an undergraduate student, deepening a crisis that has engulfed the state’s Democratic leadership. […]

Although speculation about Mr. Herring’s history with blackface had coursed through the Capitol this week, it was not until Wednesday morning that he met with the Legislative Black Caucus to inform them. He then issued a statement that described how, as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia in 1980, he had dressed as the rapper Kurtis Blow.

By Mr. Herring’s account, he and friends “dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup” for a party, and that it was a one-time occurrence.

He was NOT an official; was an undergraduate student, and did not do this to mock anyone.

My point: we ought to use some judgement: when did it happen, and what were they doing at the time? And what WAS the culture at that time?

A policy that condemns public figures who have had “any association” with blackface would thin out the supply of reputable public figures rather quickly. Comics and movie stars would be the first to get “canceled.” Jimmy Fallon did blackface to impersonate Chris Rock; Jimmy Kimmel did it to impersonate Karl Malone and Oprah Winfrey; SNL’s Fred Armisen did it to impersonate President Obama; Ashton Kutcher did brownface to depict a stereotypical Indian man in a Popchips commercial; Robert Downey Jr. wore blackface in Tropic Thunder; Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson, who play “Mac” and “Dee” on the critically acclaimed sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, have both donned blackface in the show.

And there’s no reason to stop at the living. As demonstrated in a recent New York Times op-ed, “‘Mary Poppins’ and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting with Blackface,” the grave provides no protection from the professionally offended class. To that end, perhaps we should posthumously repudiate Judy Garland (of Wizard of Oz fame), Gene Wilder (of Willy Wonka fame), and Shirley Temple (of Shirley Temple’s Storybook fame), all of whom did blackface.

Is this offensive?

How about this?

I know that times have certainly changed. No, I never used blackface. But is entirely possible that I went to an event/party where someone did…it just wouldn’t have registered with me; I was not aware of it so many years ago.

In fact, I used to have Confederate flags (the battle flag) on my bedroom wall; this was high school through the first few years of college (I’d come home on leave); the reason is that my high school was the Travis High Rebels and we used that flag for our sporting events; it was on our uniform, etc. At the time, I saw it as “school spirit”, period.

And think about other issues: can you imagine this song coming out today?

Sorry, do not include me on the “zero tolerance” train (at least, retroactively). There is so much that was mainstream in our past that we now (correctly) see as offensive in this era.

Many, myself included, were blind to things that would be obvious now.

February 7, 2019 - Posted by | politics, politics/social, racism, social/political

2 Comments »

  1. I have been working in the Defense Intelligence/Aerospace industry for over forty years now. It is a career field dominated by white males, that generally, trend toward the more conservative side. To survive in this field I have have continually had to raise my “outrage” threshold. I’ve been to costume parties where people have shown up in blackface. It was awkward but in the interest of “getting along” I had another beer and kept on keeping on. Another time, the unit I support decided to have a Dining Out with a “Gone with the WInd” theme. I sarcastically asked if would be expected to a attend as a House N***** or a Field N*****, to be period correct. I still remember overhearing one of my co-workers saying “What’s wrong with Steve, he’s usually not like that.” That’s when I realized the meaning of the saying “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll stand for anything.” At some point, turning the other cheek is profoundly unfulfilling. (YMMV). Steve Hassel, regular guy.

    Comment by Steve Hassel | February 7, 2019 | Reply

    • Steve, let me be clear that I was talking about events in the *past* as in “decades” ago and nothing current. And I am NOT talking about returning to the past.

      Comment by blueollie | February 7, 2019 | Reply


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