By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Freedom Rider: Black Faces for White People
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“It seems that white supremacy is the new national pastime every October.”
Black people have been stigmatized with racist caricatures from the first moment that Africans encountered Europeans. People who worked without pay at the point of a lash or a gun were called lazy. The victims of sexual assault were themselves labeled as “over sexed” perverts and freaks. This awful history isn’t dead. It is celebrated by millions of people who think that our plight and position in society is part of the natural order of the universe. At the first possible opportunity they publicly display their hatred and their determination to exult in and continue white supremacy.
This tendency may always be present but in recent years Halloween is the moment when the ghouls show themselves. This celebration has morphed from what used to be a simple children’s holiday into a multi-billion dollar, month long event for adults. What was an enjoyable time to dress up in costume has become the white racist moment to act out sick fantasy. They do so quite publicly, with numerous examples made easily visible on social media.
It seems that white supremacy is the new national pastime every October. People who may make token efforts to conceal their true feelings year round suddenly give themselves license to celebrate slavery or the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Blackface has become not just a hobby for white Americans but for white people around the world. When a young Australian woman recently held an African themed birthday party, not only did her white guests come dressed as black people in dark colored makeup, but some came dressed as Klu Klux Klansmen. The costume choice is a bit odd as there was no KKK in any part of Africa, but that thinking is too literal. The party guests knew what they were about.
“White Dutch men and women paint their faces black and wear afro wigs and claim it is all in good fun.”
Their country is like the United States, a living example of European genocide carried out against a dark skinned native population. Perhaps an identification with the KKK is not so far removed from Australia’s racial history.
In the Netherlands, the annual Sinterklaas festival features a mythical character known as Swarte Piet, Black Pete. White Dutch men and women paint their faces black and wear afro wigs and claim it is all in good fun. They then take great umbrage at anyone who questions the propriety of this obviously retrograde custom.
The Dutch are deeply attached to their racist caricature and are fighting tooth and nail to keep the tradition alive. To their credit, many of their countrymen and women are saying that Black Pete has no place in the 21st century in a nation which calls itself advanced and civilized. However, the backlash against progress has been so fierce that a new Facebook page in support of the Black Pete tradition generated 1 million likes in less than 24 hours. White people in the Netherlands are standing their ground.
The message is quite clear. Millions of white people want to maintain unequivocal and unquestioned control over people of color. A return to the good old days of slavery, colonial violence, invasions and occupations is something they pine for quite openly.
“It is time for black people to acknowledge the seriousness of their situation.”
A Republican state legislator in Nevada made that point. Jim Wheeler said that he would vote to bring back slavery if his constituents wanted him to do it. Of course Wheeler added that this hypothetical vote would only come about if he first held his nose and then bit his tongue and had a gun pointed to his head, but the message is inescapable and Wheeler is not alone. Italian fashion designers and Quebec comedians all find reasons to make sure that black people are not thought of as people at all.
The mind set which says that white people should always be in control is firmly entrenched. If Trayvon Martin’s murder can be played out as someone’s idea of humor, then it is time for black people to acknowledge the seriousness of their situation.
Black people are hated and despised by many people who are happy to see us suffering, dismissed as the “other” who can be easily ignored, or killed because of racism. The new age white minstrels are making their yearnings obvious. We must be ready to acknowledge our predicament and not be shocked every time we see a white person who finds comedy in our suffering. For every one clumsy enough to be found out on Twitter or Facebook there is another too smart to reveal himself. While they won’t make themselves known we would be smart to know that they are always present and so is their sick philosophy.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.