Blackface: An opportunity to educate

Staff Editorial

On Thursday, August 25, MN kicked off the football season with a game played against Omaha North. Pictures of MN fans with their faces painted black started a social media dispute that night, with some saying that the act was offensive while others defended the school tradition of having a blackout for the first football game of the new season. And although the situation has calmed down, students should view this game as a learning experience and a reason to look back at America’s history in order to educate.

The school year has just begun and things are finally starting to feel routine. Clubs are having their first meetings, passing periods have been changed from five minutes to six, and fall sports are well into their seasons now. While the controversy that surrounds the first football game may seem like old news now, it is vital that we take the time to educate ourselves on the history of blackface in America, a memory of racism and oppression to many.

It is important to note that some students may not be aware of this part of our country’s history, but it is even more important to realize that being informed is the first step in understanding the entire situation surrounding this event. While some time may has passed, it is never too late to educate ourselves on such a crucial parts of American history.

According to PBS, blackface, the use of makeup by a non-African American performer to crudely portray African Americans, began in the mid-nineteenth century in the world of theater. Performers would darken their skin, exaggerate their lips, and depict African American characters as uneducated, laughable fools. Extremely offensive but viewed as entertainment, blackface was just another way that African Americans were oppressed and mocked.

However, blackface and the mockery of African Americans only worsened when television became more widespread. Racist Americans refused to let African Americans appear on television, so blackface became normalized as entertainment. According to the Huffington Post, these actors were made to look “black” and would sing and dance like “the darkies.” Exaggerated dialect was produced for comical effect and the practice of blackface even spread to black actors who would hide their actual race from the audience with the use of makeup.

Not only was blackface an extension of the Jim Crow Laws after the Civil War, but it was maintained during a time of intense African American oppression. The reason why some view MN’s school spirit during the football game as offensive is not because the students painted their faces black in a traditional fashion, but because of the historical context behind having black face paint.

While MN students never intended for the face paint to be received as anything more than proud school spirit, it is important that we don’t allow the historical context of blackface to merely fade away. It is important, even today, to look back at our country’s history and learn from past mistakes. The past is the past, but we must never forget our history. This incident should be viewed as a learning opportunity and a lesson, something to remember in the future.