Ok, look. I’m tired, I’m crabby and I keep seeing the same shit regarding folks cosplaying characters of color and doing brown/blackface in the name of “authenticity!”
If your costume is good enough, people will know who you are without you darkening your damn skin. Full stop. If people can’t tell who you are then maybe you need to up your cosplay game.
As a reminder: Blackface is racist, Brownface is racist. If you are not someone educated in the US, or are never discussed this in school or online or with your friends? Have a seat, you get one freebie.
What is Blackface? From Wikipedia:
Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used by non-black performers to represent a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the spread of racial stereotypes such as the “happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation” or the “dandified coon”. In 1848, blackface minstrel shows were an American national art of the time, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience.Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right, until it ended in the United States with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
This reproduction of a 1900
poster, originally published by the Strobridge
Co., shows the transformation from “white” to “black”.
Blackface was an important performance tradition in the American theater for roughly 100 years beginning around 1830. It quickly became popular elsewhere, particularly so in Britain, where the tradition lasted longer than in the U.S., occurring on primetime TV, most famously in The Black and White Minstrel Show, which ended in 1978, and in Are You Being Served?’s Christmas specials in 1976 and finally in 1981. In both the United States and Britain, blackface was most commonly used in the minstrel performance tradition, which it both predated and outlasted. Early white performers in blackface used burnt cork and later greasepaint or shoe polish to blacken their skin and exaggerate their lips, often wearing woolly wigs, gloves, tailcoats, or ragged clothes to complete the transformation. Later, black artists also performed in blackface.
Stereotypes embodied in the stock characters of blackface minstrels not only played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes, and perceptions worldwide, but also in popularizing black culture. In some quarters, the caricatures that were the legacy of blackface persist to the present day and are a cause of ongoing controversy. Another view is that “blackface is a form of cross-dressing in which one puts on the insignias of a sex, class, or race that stands in opposition to one’s own.”
By the mid-20th century, changing attitudes about race and racism effectively ended the prominence of blackface makeup used in performance in the U.S. and elsewhere. It remains in relatively limited use as a theatrical device and is more commonly used today as social commentary or satire. Perhaps the most enduring effect of blackface is the precedent it established in the introduction of African-American culture to an international audience, albeit through a distorted lens. Blackface’s groundbreaking appropriation,exploitation, and assimilation of African-American culture — as well as the inter-ethnic artistic collaborations that stemmed from it — were but a prologue to the lucrative packaging, marketing, and dissemination of African-American cultural expression and its myriad derivative forms in today’s world popular culture.
There is plenty more, go read it all. I would link academic sources but those are usually paywalled, and I’m not in the mood to dig around for free links for folks right now.
Also have a couple articles, one from today that spurred this post: If you choose to wear blackface on Halloween you are just plain racist, Huffington Post
Dear Cosplayers, Leave Blackface alone. FROM 2015, a year later, we have to have this damn conversation, again.
Fresh Out of Tokens — Episode with BrothaDom about a lot of things but we covered blackface in Cosplay.
Is that enough *proof* for y’all yet?
Also, don’t come back with well black people shouldn’t cosplay anything but black characters cause “historical accuracy” or the character isn’t black so their cosplay insn’t accurate!
Know what I say to that?
So TL;DR don’t fucking do brown/blackface if you cosplay as a character of color. This means:
- Dorian Pavus
- Zevran Arainai
- Lady Josephine Montilyet
- Pharah (Overwatch)
- Guy from the IT crowd
- Vivienne De Fer
- Ser Barris
Also, if you’re POC and darken your skin further? You’re guilty too. Like if I ever cosplayed as Vivienne, I wouldn’t make myself darker to be accurate. That’s blackface, which you can do even if you’re poc.
If you do it, and people call you out for doing a racist thing? Don’t be surprised, take the L, admit you fucked up, genuinely apologize and don’t do that shit again.
Do not, under any circumstances come back at someone pointing out your fuck up with any/all of the following:
- but my black/nb-poc friend didn’t mind! [we’re not a monolith, IDGAF which of your supposed black/nb-poc friends co-signed. It’s still not ok]
- It’s ancient history! [it’s not, blackface ain’t that damn far in the past, try last week]
- That’s not the case in my country! [well that’s nice, but if you’re in the US and someone sees that, they will drag you]
- Come into any black person’s in box to explain yourself. No one cares.
- Act like we’re all bullies for pointing out your fuck up. You went out like that, accept the consequences.
So enjoy that one free lesson, I’m off to have a good night