Sunday, 26 March 2023

Digital Blackface: the Modern Minstrel Show

Are you Guilty of Digital Blackface?

Try them - you won't have to read the entire pieces although they are good reads. These describe a term which is new to me: #DIGITAL BLACKFACE. Many white people will scoff at the term claiming that people of colour are being too sensitive.

I am white and I think I understand the term better... for now. I guarantee you the list of inclusions will expand. The best description I have seen is that this is the modern version of the old minstrel shows. Google "Al Jolson" if you don't know what they were - popular way back in the 19th century. They were wrong then and would cause riots today.

If I address a black guy (can I use that word?) as Bro or I say 'Sup is that Blackspeak? If he addresses me the same way and I respond in kind - same question.

For years many white writers and journalists made fun of Yogi Berra for his famous "It ain't over 'till it's over" and "Pair up in threes!". There is even an expression now which is Yogi-isms. President George W. Bush probably generated a similar list. 

If we quote them is this "Whiteface?" My wife often watches the Kelly Clarkson show and almost every day Kelly addresses the audience as "Y'all". I think she has recently introduced the term. To Canadians like me it grates on the ears but to millions of people in the south it is everyday "speak". Is Kelly using Southern Face?

Sometimes on certain talk shows a panelist is of colour and speaks in a very expressive manner. They appear to be acting - the emotion sounds artificial. I often wonder if I woke the same person in the middle of the night would they really speak the same way? Yet I see other shows where no panelist is of colour and I want to say the same thing! People express emotion in different ways.

Language and expression are results of many factors - culture; parental influence; religion; peer pressure; and for sure education.

That last one stands out for me. People - in particular white people - have looked down their noses at almost everyone else for centuries. Entire societies have perpetuated classes and castes to guarantee that the privileged few at the top stay there. South African Apartheid was a blatant example - so was established North America. One of the paths to the top if you are not born there is education. If those in control deny it to the masses precisely to preserve the status quo the problem will always exist. If you have never experienced this - I have not - don't mock Blackface.

Controversial perhaps but education also reflects the way we express ourselves  regardless of colour, age, or race. Many young kids including white ones choose to leave school early. They don't like it and want to be free as soon as they can. Lots find trades or other jobs and live great lives - good for them. Others sell drugs and enter the criminal world - not so good for them or the rest of us.

I have become aware of my own language and grammar because I actually enjoyed it in primary school. 
Some have called me arrogant or conceited because of the way I express myself. Others have accused me of showing no emotion or passion. Both hurt. I would like people to accept me as I am the same way we should accept others the way they are. No Blackface or ridicule please.

Because I am white I can only say I think I understand this phenomenon. I will never experience the feelings and realities of discrimination that others still live every day.

You are reading this digitally. I hope it is not full of Digital Whiteface. If so please comment below. No names necessary.


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