Tag Archives: blackface

Race is something to talk about

I’m not one to shy away from a conversation on race and today, Prada had an unplanned one after a passerby noticed a bag in the window of a shop in Soho.  There appeared to be a blackface accessory attached to the bag.  Cue the removal of the bag, a statement from Prada and another conversation on race.  Described as “monkey trinkets,” many people are asking, “How did this happen?”

“What year is this?”  “I thought we were farther along.”  But, should we be?  What have we said about race that propels us forward?  What of our conversations about race have brought understanding and healing?  When have our conversations about race not been reactive?  How have we prepared for conversations on race?

Still, we shuffle along, pretending that our cross- cultural relationships are all patched up, only to have someone point out another hole.  We missed a spot.  The job was rushed.  The material was not the best and thus, not able to withstand another brush with race.  We’ll deal with it later or when the time comes.  Well, here we are again.

Deep sigh.  “Why do we have to keep talking about race?”  Because questions of identity, belonging and membership continue to arise.  Because we are not saying what needs to be said.  And we don’t know what needs to be said.  Because we end the conversation at the first sign of discomfort or disagreement.

Because we give race the silent treatment.  Rather than have vulnerable conversations, we enter with our guard up.  We decide that we will only say so much.  We would rather be disingenuous than open up.

This means that our exchanges are not authentic.  Instead, we feign interest, outrage, empathy and/ or understanding.  We don’t invest much more than a head nod and a pat on the back.  “I just don’t know what to say.”  And if we are honest, we have not taken the time to learn what to say.

We don’t want to keep talking about it.  But, that’s the problem.  Conversations on race should be on- going.  We need to keep the conversation going so that the Prada bag never even makes it to the shop in Soho.

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Trayvon Martin: Blackness and Halloween Costumes

Trayvon Martin.  Most Americans know his name and the story of his death.  But, now his name is strangely associated with Halloween.  Apparently, some persons think that it is acceptable to dress like a dead child and in blackface, no less.  I cannot even begin to describe the callousness of those who think it good fun to mock the tragic death of another and to suggest that one can represent a socially colored black person by painting their face black.

Rants on social media simply don’t cut it and a law can’t fix this.  Another conference will not make sense of it.  This is a matter for the heart and it is at the core of our humanity.  We must reconcile these truths, these choices to deeply offend.

And I don’t want to hear, “It wasn’t me.”  Or, “This was their poor decision.  We can’t blame everyone.”  No, I do blame all of  us.  What have we done or left unsaid if this is a choice?  What are we really afraid of?  And why does the taking of this child’s life not invoke fear in all of us?

And I don’t want to hear that Halloween has passed, that it’s old news now, that the matter is finished because the Facebook account has been closed and he has changed his profile picture.  This does not mean that the work is finished– because we don’t see it any more.  No.

And don’t let the fact that Trayvon Martin died three years ago imply that what happened to him is in the past.  Clearly, it is not; his life and his death now made present in the form of a costume.

Raven McGill offers words for us to reflect on at a National Poetry Slam.