I don’t think enough people know exactly how black paint on white faces affects their black and brown friends. I’m not just talking about frat bros going to Halloween parties as “gangsters” or trying to get through Tropic Thunder (goddammit, RDJ), black face in general is just not cool. Don’t dress up as a shadow, don’t be a hockey puck, don’t be a domino piece, and don’t be a demon. Well…do so, but expect ALL of the side-eye.
I am sure saying these things will produce some blue-eyed eye-rolling, but you can’t be mad at us for just being tired of seeing white people in black faces. With all of the other shit that we have to deal with in the day, The LEAST you could do is put the Dove brand black face paint down and think for a minute. Lili Reinhart got a bit of a drag this week when she didn’t really think. She posted a picture of herself in head-to-toe black makeup with the caption, “Found my Halloween costume!! Inspired by the color of my soul.”
GET IT??? Because she is saying that her soul is dark! She’s a demon on the inside! It’s FUNNY, EVERYONE!...But it’s really not. Lili Reinhart is probably not racist, and at least in this instance she had no racist intentions. To her credit, in the obligatory process of deleting the picture and penning an apology tweet, she did not mention her presence of black friends, so that’s a start. She learned a lesson, I hope.
As for the image of black being something bad, I concede that nearly every culture has had a fear of the dark and total absence of like. This is because before we had 24 hour lights, things that go “bump” in the night could and would literally kill you. So of course the shade is the hue of darkness, evil, fear, etc. in societies on EVERY continent.
That black shade has been applied in ancient depictions of Satan and demons in general, too, especially in Christianity. Demons were nearly always black as night in paintings and etchings. Hell, if you look at the deities throughout the world, you’ll see a distinct and stark lightening of their depictions after Europeans colonized those regions. Skin lightening cream is a multi-million dollar industry as well. In lore, when St. Nicholas was transitioning from historical figure to benevolent NSA spy for children, he was often depicted with a black-as-night devil that he had captured and enslaved. SInterklass made him either build toys or mete out punishment of bad children. That demon evolved into the Krampus and Zwarte Piet. The former stayed black as hell, but maintained his standard demon shape: hybrid goat-human with pointy ears and sometimes horns. Zwarte Piet, however, went from enslaved demon to enslaved “blackamoor”, so not only is he black and creating mischief, he’s a Muslim dude dressed up to look like a damn fool. That transition links demons to black people, as in black skinned people are descended from demons. Zwarte Piet is essentially an enslaved demon, afro and all. Where in literal hell does one get a hold of shea butter and Afro Sheen?
The idea that black people came from demons is not even new. It was one of the many justifications for establishing the construct of racism that permeates today. It also was the justification for torturing enslaved Africans as if they were not human. If they’re damned already, then why not mutilate them? In theatre and cinema, if white people in blackface weren’t acting like shuckin’ jivin’ fools, they were beastlike, devilish super predators, pouncing on and defiling innocent white women. This is part of the reason why the myth that black people, especially larger ones and especially men, are often seen as being more brutish, violently impulsive, stronger, more impervious to pain, etc. I guarantee this is why in nearly every publicized police shooting of an unarmed black man, there is mention of how “large and intimidating” the victim is.
This is why blackface is so offensive, and also why thinking just putting on some black paint sans horns, tails, leather wings, etc and saying you’re your own dark soul or a demon is not a good idea. It’s also why just putting on black face paint is just a bad idea, intentions pure or not. I’m willing to give anyone a pass, but only if the perpetrator promises to think and reflect.
So perhaps you think before you slap that brown/black face paint on your face. Maybe consider that especially in this timeframe, while we have a racist sack of carrot puree who hired literal nazis to his cabinet, while violence against brown and black people by white dudes has risen, while my street harassment quota while I’m committing a BWB (biking while black) has doubled, that perhaps you can go without the makeup to make the costume.
For the white people who are incredulous that someone wrote an article about Lili Reinhart’s “joke”, you have no right to be incredulous at our shade. Something will be said no matter what the costume is. Bowling balls, giant loafers, Ipod commercial shadow…hell, don't even be Groot unless you have a mask. Someone will rightfully drag you. If you want to be mad at someone, be mad at your European ancestors who have made blackface so toxic that it inevitably gets a negative reaction, from receiving minor shade to catching repeated hands. THEY ruined blackface, not us. You don’t see anyone named Adolf or walking around with a tiny moustache and Bieber swoop either. You, not we, can get over it.