I was talking with an acquaintance last week who told me about the costume idea he & his friends came up with.
“I’m going to dress up as 1960’s Michael Jackson and my friends will dress up as Michael in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s!”
He seemed very enthusiastic about the costume idea.
“Um,” I said, “aren’t all of you Caucasians?”
“Yeah,” he said without a trace of nastiness, “we’re going to have to put on some black makeup on our faces… well, at least up until the 90’s.”
I’m serious. No trace of nastiness at all. He seemed genuinely shocked when I suggested that going in blackface might, y’know, have roots and a long history of racism. There’s even a more in-depth article at Wikipedia. (Note: Racist illustrations from period works are at both those links.)
If nothing else, I think this is a perfect example of when racist behaviors can be perpetuated without racist intent. I’m decent enough acquaintances with this guy to say that he’s not an overt racist – but the costume he’s going to wear is. The effect on a viewer is not going to be any different because of his intent.
Resist Racism has had plenty of experience with this stuff. What are your experiences?