Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century actors in the role of Othello. (l-r) Gustavus Vaughan Brooke, Tommaso Salvini, Thomas Grist, Edmund Kean. Images from the Folger Shakespeare Library collection.
After Virginia Governor Northam retracted Friday's confession that he was one of characters in the photo without saying which, and instead said that he was now certain that he did not appear in that photo at all, most of the pundits and politicians that condemned him for being in the 35 year old photo refused to change their position. Neither did they do the necessary work to show that he was lying, and it was Northam in the photo based on independent collaboration. So far none has emerged, although at any point one or even both of the former students in the picture may reveal themselves, or be unmasked.
Instead, they all latched on to a story the governor told about how he used a little shoe polish, he didn't say what color, to darken his cheeks to win a Micheal Jackson dance contest in San Antonio in 1984. He never called it blackface, but they did, and they all said that was just as racist as if he was in the photo with the Klansman.
I said that they had jumped the shark, and were handing white supremacy a great victory by trying to redefine all "blackface," or the use of makeup to darken the skin, as racist. Simply defining the form as racist, regardless of the content or intentions.
And so, in him saying he does not see how this is offensive, even in dressing up as Michael Jackson and putting on a little bit of shoe polish, in blackface—blackface is blackface. And again, it should not be accepted, condoned at any time.I understand that the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus is keen to have the first black governor, but they shouldn't be willing to hand the white supremacists such a victory to get it. "Blackface is blackface," equating a Michael Jackson impersonator with someone appearing blackface with a Klansman, serves only white supremacist purposes. They should be ashamed of themselves.
|Ralph Northam in San Antonio, 1984|
Ralph Northam came to San Antonio the same year the yearbook came out, 1984, to start his pediatric internship at Brooke Army Medical Center. He was in San Antonio until 1987, finishing two years of residency after his year as an intern. In May 1985 he was named "one of San Antonio’s most eligible bachelor doctors" by the San Antonio Express-News. This photo is from that article. He met his future wife, Pamela there as well. She was a pediatric occupational therapist at BAMC. They met on a blind date at a pool party.
And we now know that he also thought himself good at moonwalking, and darkened his skin with shoe polish as part of his makeup/costume to participate in a dance contest as Michael Jackson.
I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that since Micheal Jackson was much beloved in 1984, even in San Antonio, and since Northam won the dance contest, his representation honored Micheal Jackson. It was not a racist parody or denigration of the man.
And as it turns out, there is a long tradition, even a cottage industry, of Micheal Jackson impersonators. You can join them, provided your skin isn't too dark already. Otherwise, it will be a bit more challenging in the makeup department, Even today, you can find helpful HowTo videos on YouTube. Here are three. All involve using making up to darken the skin, what some would call blackface, I guess these sort of videos will have to be banned now as racist under the new "Northam" guidelines.
MICHAEL JACKSON - CELEBRITY MAKE UP TUTORIAL
Michael Jackson Makeup Tutorial
#6 MakeUp: Michael Jackson!
Here is an interview with one of the top Michael Jackson impersonators. If you think Virginia Governor Ralph Northam should resign because he impersonated Micheal Jackson in a 1984 dance contest, you should watch this video, and leave a comment explaining why the guy in this video is a racist, and should stop what he is doing.
On that same Democracy Now show Monday, they had another guest, Rhae Lynn Barnes, assistant professor of American cultural history at Princeton University and author of the forthcoming book Darkology: When the American Dream Wore Blackface, to talk about the history of blackface, but for all her expertise, she only talked about the more well known uses of blackface for minstrel shows and racist parody. She said nothing about the history of its use by white men to perpetrated crimes in the guise of African Americans for the purpose of criminalizing the black population, and terrorizing the whites. Of course, if you are trying to sell "blackface is blackface," it's best to leave that out of the equation.
That is unfortunate, because the used of blackface by white men to commit crimes isn't just history, it is a problem even today. Here is an example from just last year in the Las Vega Review-Journal:
If defining "blackface is blackface" means seeing no difference between the burnt-cork blacken faces of slave-era minstrel performers and Michael Jackson impersonators, while leaving out the long history of the use of blackface by white supremacists in non-performance environments to directly contribute to the criminalization of African Americans, then this project to demonize Ralph Northam will be handing the white supremacists a great victory in this redefinition of what is racist about blackface, along with a good man, as far as Democrats go, imho.
Man accused of robbing Las Vegas Strip casino in blackface
12 March 2018
By Blake Apgar
A white man accused of robbing a Strip casino in blackface in January was charged Friday in federal court, records show.
Cameron James Kennedy, 26, was charged with robbery in the armed holdup of a casino cage at New York-New York, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and a federal criminal complaint filed last week. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The Las Vegas man already was under federal supervision on prior bank robbery charges when he allegedly cut off his GPS monitoring bracelet and robbed the casino in the early morning of Jan. 10, according to the complaint.
Kennedy used makeup to appear black, Las Vegas police said. The cashier at the cage told police she did not think he was black because his skin tone was “off” and “blotchy,” according to the federal complaint.
White bank robber James Kennedy used blackface to disguise himself
It must now also be added that such a shallow definition of blackface opens people up to fabricated attacks such as this one:
A Hillary Clinton blackface hoax is exploding on pro-Trump social media in the wake of Virginia's blackface scandals. https://t.co/cblGOJlLUf— Will Sommer (@willsommer) February 6, 2019