by Nisa Quarles '21
Megyn Kelly’s recent comments that justified blackface not only resulted in her show’s cancellation, but they also further fueled ongoing debates about the history of blackface and the “right way” to dress up as characters or people from different races and cultures. In her comments, Kelly not only failed to acknowledge the particularly high racial tensions that the Trump administration has ignited in this country, but she also failed to acknowledge the history of blackface and its direct ties to racism against black people in America. Beginning in the nineteenth century, blackface was a form of makeup where white performers called minstrels would darken their faces with burnt cork or black greasepaint. These minstrels then performed mockeries of black people that portrayed them as dense, clownish, and most of all, inhuman for the sake of comedy and upholding the superiority of the white race. Later on, when black performers were actually allowed to be on stage, they were forced to sacrifice their dignity and wear blackface to portray their own race in the same manner. Some may argue that this practice was one of admiration, but ultimately, the scar that blackface leaves behind is one of racism and racial stereotypes that continue to plague black people today.
Evidently, blackface is an upsetting and telling part of America’s racist history, so that it is exactly where it should stay: in history. Even though one may see blackface as a way to enhance a costume rather than a form of racism, blackface is inherently racist, regardless of the wearer’s intentions. This general rule applies not only to white people, but to black people and those of all other races.
To be clear, I am not at all saying that you cannot dress up as a black person or as a person of another race, but you should not change your skin color to do so. As a rule of thumb, if the character or person who you are portraying is human, your costume should not involve changing your skin color. However, if your character is supernatural or something along those lines, then changing your skin color is justified. For example, dressing up as Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games should not involve changing your skin color, but using blue face paint to dress up as Mystique from X-Men is okay. Jennifer Lawrence plays both characters, but Katniss is human, and Mystique is not.
Aside from blackface, it is important that everyone is mindful of the diversity on the Close and in the country when they select their Halloween costume. We all come from different cultures and backgrounds, and it is essential that we respect each other on Halloween and the rest of the year. So, as a general rule, if you think your costume may be offensive, DON’T wear it -even if it is meant to be funny. The insensitive nature of your costume will no doubt overshadow your attempt to get a laugh.
I hope everyone has a wonderful (and respectful) Halloween, and I can’t wait to see everyone’s costumes!
 CBS News October 28, 2018, and 9:53 Am, “Unmasking the Racist History of Blackface,” accessed October 29, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/history-of-blackface-unmasking-the-racism-reignited-by-megyn-kelly-controversy/.