This morning I reported that a Florida high school student had gone to her homecoming in blackface as part of a "Nicki Minaj" costume.
It was a reminder that a campaign launched two weeks ago by advocacy group DoSomething.org is wholly necessary.
Through Halloween, the group's #NoBlackface movement is trying to teach people an excruciatingly simple message: Don't wear blackface.
"It's a really straightforward campaign, but there are still a lot of young people who don't understand why it's so racist and offensive," Lizzy Divine, the campaign's manager, told me.
The genesis of the campaign was a recent report that a UCLA fraternity had held a party where guests showed up dressed in blackface. While it was later reported that the partygoers had merely painted charcoal beards, incidents from earlier this year show why it's still necessary. In 2015 alone we've had:
- An Alabama elementary school teacher dressing up as "Kanye West"
- A Washington college soccer team dressing up as "The Jackson 5"
- Models wearing blackface in Milan
- An Australian sports TV presenter wearing it for reasons that are still not clear
- A Japanese TV show doing a skit in blackface
"Some people know they're doing a caricature of a black person, if they're wearing ghettofab grills, or stuffing butt— things they clearly know are racially charged," Divine said. "Other people may just love Michelle from The Walking Dead. No matter the intent, even if you're just trying to honor a character…just don’t do it, really upsetting to black community."
Fusion's own Akilah Hughes has also addressed the topic.
"Starting in the 1800s, white American actors performing in minstrel shows would rub their faces with shoe polish or greasepaint to impersonate black people and act out racist stereotypes of black people," she writes. "These minstrel shows were enjoyed by white people who wanted to dehumanize blacks so they could continue to view and treat their slaves as less-than-human."
Through Halloween, DoSomething is asking people to take a selfie and tag it #noblackface. They've also bought the URL IsItOkayToWearBlackFace.com.
"It’s a little cheeky, but we're showing people it’s really easy—it’s easier not to wear blackface than is. Just don't do it."
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.