Thursday, October 15, 2009

French Vogue does blackface: Since when is this OK?

In the October issue of French Vogue, which is dedicated to "Supermodels," there are no black models. No Naomi Campbell, no Tyra Banks, no Iman, no Alek Wek, no Liya Kebede, no Chanel Iman. Instead, Dutch model Lara Stone appeared in a 14-page editorial in blackface. Aside from the fact that models of many nationalities have gained a greater presence in the fashion industry and should have been used in this magazine, today in 2009 we should all know that white people dressing in blackface is offensive.

The thing is, incidences of blackface have been cropping up in the news and pop culture more and more lately. Just last week, Harry Connick Jr. appeared as a guest judge on a live broadcast of the Australian program, "Hey Hey It's Saturday." On the show, five men presented a skit called "Jackson Jive" while covered in blackface paint and afro wigs. The audience cheered and laughed as the group performed, and seemed shocked when Connick Jr. gave the group a zero score."Man, if they turned up looking like that in the United'd be like 'Hey, Hey There's No More Show.'"

Lara Stone in French Vogue

Lara Stone in French Vogue
After taking serious offense to the routine, Connick Jr. was given an opportunity to elaborate on his concerns to the show's host, Daryl Somers. "I just wanted to say on behalf of my country, I know it was done in humor...but we have spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we take it really to heart." We at Shine could not agree more.

This program aired in Australia, and the blackface model appears in French Vogue. Is it possible that outside the U.S., there's less sensitivity to blackface because these countries don't share our unfortunate history of minstrel shows? But on second thought, the Vogue photographer Steven Klein is American. Surely, he must have known the shoot was in the least controversial and at worst would seriously offend many people. While the photos are not necessarily portraying model Lara Stone in a negative way, it could still be considered racist. And while some would defend it as cool or edgy, most would say this fashion spread is just plain wrong.

Roger Sterling performs in blackface on "Mad Men"

Roger Sterling performs in blackface on "Mad Men"
"Mad Men" viewers may have caught a recent episode "My Old Kentucky Home," in which Roger Sterling performs an Al Jolson-like number at his Kentucky Derby wedding party. The show is set in the early 1960s, and back then white people used to perform as black people and perpetuate negative stereotypes and poke fun at their race. Meanwhile, African American entertainers themselves were often forbidden from performing at all.

This scene was intended to highlight the ignorance of people some 40 years ago–the fictional performance left its characters nonplussed. We've made such progress in the battle against racism, is there really any reason anymore to use blackface? How do you feel about all the recent blackface appearances in pop culture?

Source: Articles and image from shine from yahoo

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