TAMPA (WTSP) – It happens every year around this time. Inevitably, a Halloween party-goer will dress up in a costume meant to be funny, but ends up causing more controversy than comedy.
One of the most offensive costumes that seems to resurface every Halloween is someone dressed in blackface.
“It’s a painful reminder, and it’s an ugly part of history,” said University of South Florida Professor Aisha Durham.
Although there were some black actors who performed in blackface, traditionally, blackface was donned by white actors as early as the 1830s during minstrel show performances. The actors would darken their skin with burnt cork and perform grossly exaggerated stereotypes of black people and culture.
“One doesn’t have to look too far to see that these are some of the most racist images, and these images were actually used to perpetuate racial exploitation to keep black people as second-class citizens,” said Durham.
This is exemplified by the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, which gets its name from one of the first well-known minstrel show performances, “Jump Jim Crow.”
“We see these images all the way up to the 1960s, 1970s in American television, and we see it recycled just about every Halloween at campus parties or blackface parties, so to suggest that we don’t know that these are racist images, I’m not sure if I actually buy that,” said Durham.
In the last two months alone, there have been multiple instances of students at college campuses parading in blackface on social media, making a mockery of social movements.
A white student at Albright College in Pennsylvania was suspended after video surfaced of her in dark makeup mocking Black Lives Matter. She had also padded her pants to make fun of black women with more voluptuous bodies.
At Prairie View A&M College in Texas, another student was also caught on social media in blackface. She used black tape to cover her face as a joke about trying to fit in at her historically black college.
“I mean, one only needs to turn on the news and look at the political sphere to see how much we still have to go in terms of talking about race. So to have those images be a visual reminder of second-class citizenship, is not a way to create community,” said Durham.