First of all, Jason, thanks for the comment. Let’s see what’s going on:
I guess I’m saying that the normal person who goes to Beaver games doesn’t think of that as a first thought.
Why is ignorance of this historical fact normal? Is it not worth knowing? If it’s not, how do you justify that? I agree with you that most people don’t necessarily know about blackface, but there is certainly a reason for that. Is that reason, whatever it is, a good one? Or does – as I think – that reason have to do with a historically white-centric curriculum in schools and a tendency to marginalize the suffering of people of color?
I think here something has to be said about intent. Clearly the intent had nothing to do with racism. Once they know people are offended it should stop. And of course being ignorant to it is no excuse, but intent should be in there somewhere.
I have noted elsewhere that while intent is important (indeed, most of the arguments defending the presence of black facepaint hinge on intent), I think effect (or how the action is received and understood) is also incredibly important.
Imagine this response to the Baro’s running of the photo and the Facebook group:
1. The photo and Facebook stuff appear.
2. Someone points out how the image and idea reference a piece of history that’s maybe not worth emulating – i.e. blackface and minstrel shows.
3. Proponents of black facepaint read the provided links and hold a discussion on Facebook, in person, and in the pages of the Barometer as to why they want to use black facepaint, and how they are very conscious of what it means and intend no disrespect. They request to hear the opinions of others, making sure to listen to the comments of people of color.
At this point it can go two ways:
4a: The discussion is great, and the folks who raised the issue in the first place understand that those folks painting their faces black understand and respect the history behind. Perhaps black facepaint at OSU games takes on a whole new meaning, one that honors and respects the history in question. Or perhaps the idea is dropped and orange facepaint is used.
4b: The discussion doesn’t go so well, and the objections to black facepaint stand. Some folks still use it, but some don’t, understanding how it’s hurtful towards others.
Frankly, I’d have been happier with either outcome, because they both involve an element of learning about why this is an issue. Instead, we get comments on Facebook that are pretty clearly racist and reveling in their ignorance, or simply claim that since “I” don’t see the problem, no one else should either (which is really not that different from reveling in one’s ignorance).
No wonder people are upset – it’s not that it happened (though certainly I am of the opinion that it should not have) but that the (mostly) white folks who are doing this have refused to listen to any dissenting voices, and indeed have been pretty effective in marginalizing them.
Sounds like you’re reaching a bit. They should apologize, not encourage that behavior again and use it as a learning experience. No need to take it too far.
Agreed – except that in the case of many of the Facebook folks and the comments left on the Gazette-Times website, there are few if any apologies or acknowledgments. Instead, there are lots of complaints that people should just “stop whining and get over it.”
What is too far? In this case, it appears that too far is asking for white folks to do some learning and perhaps admit to a mistake.
Compare that to these suggestions (if you want some that maybe “go too far”: Black facepaint should be banned from games, the Beavers should stop wearing black entirely, the editor, advisor and all other staff responsible for the photo should be fired, the students who wear black facepaint and/or leave racist comments on Facebook should expelled or forced to take a class on racism… I could go on, but you get the point. I have yet to hear anyone advocating any of these suggestions.
What’s being asked of white people is not a lot, not really. And yet some of us still react like it’s the end of the world.
Say hello to white privilege.
And Jason – I have read Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States cover to cover. For the record =)