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Blackface

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For those not familiar with blackface, it originated as a type of makeup used by non-black actors to portray caricatures of black people. In the United States, it is generally considered unambiguously racist—though there are those who would argue that if the portrayal is not a caricature, then it is not racist. While the use of blackface in the arts has largely ceased (though there is still controversy about white actors taking non-white roles) it has persisted in popular culture. Not surprisingly, it seems to most frequently appear at costume parties—such as on Halloween but also at other events. As might be suspected, the revelation that a public figure appeared in blackface can be a career ender. Recently, Mile Ertel resigned as the Secretary of State of my adopted state of Florida when photos of him in blackface became public.  He dressed up as a black Katrina victim a mere two months after the storm devasted the region. This was almost fifteen years ago and some contend this past behavior should not be held against him now. While Ertel is a Republican, blackface is bipartisan. The release of a photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook (showing one person in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan gear) has created a firestorm for Democratic governor Ralph Northam of Virginia. As this is being written, he intends to stay in office—despite broad calls for him to resign. Since the incident occurred in 1984, there is once again the matter of time—should the Northham of today be punished for what occurred in 1984? Image Credit One possible defense of someone who wore blackface in the past is to argue that they were not fully aware of the history and implications of blackface. That is, they did not intend to be racist. Proponents of this defense will point out that people do often dress up in non-racist odd and problematic costumes the wearers think are just fine—especially when alcohol is involved. This defense is not entirely absurd. Everyone. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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