Showing posts with the label John Fiske

"Blackface" and Best Evidence

Why is blackface wrong?Blackface is wrong.  But it's not prima facia, at-face-value wrong.  (The pun is intended and meaningful.)  There is nothing inherently immoral about blackening your face.  It's not like theft or rape or murder.  It is wrong because of its historical context; specifically, within American history and culture, a white actor using the pseudonym Jim Crow performed in minstrel shows in the 1830s portraying "blacks as lazy, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexual, and prone to thievery and cowardice."  That taint of racist intention has remained with the practice for almost two centuries.

Teaching American literatureWhen I taught American literature, I typically invited students to produce a "creative assignment" of their own choosing which reflected the content of the course.  In this context, one of my students--an intelligent, cooperative, engaged, well-intentioned student--surprised me and the class with a one-man performance of a minstr…