Here’s the thing. It’s not just face paint and a chance to be ballsy for the night. ‘Blacking up’ is steeped in a history of discrimination, degradation and bigotry. That much is obvious when you realise where it’s derived from. The minstrel shows and the toy golliwogs of the 19th and 20th century were pervasive and invasive in their intention to portray black people in a derogatory light. They were meant to dehumanise and caricaturise an entire race into infantile rogues for the amusement of the privileged superior race.
It’s not about remaining PC so the racism police don’t give you a slap on the wrist and a warning about offending someone ‘sensitive’. There’s a genuinely sinister undertone to a young adult, fully equipped with a wealth of education and social awareness, choosing to perpetuate these backwards racial stereotypes; the very racial stereotypes that hindered the progression of equality and promoted the persecution of many.
Appropriation of culture is bad enough as it harks on a willing ignorance. Racial appropriation amps you up into a whole new level of stupid if changing skin colours for the night is the sum and whole of your joke.
Or seemingly, a perfect icebreaker and introduction into your fresher identity. It seems all too convenient to say it’s a joke and an excuse for a controversial cover photo – BNOC stardom, here they come (!) It’s not smart or witty, it’s just lazy and sloppy.
Heightening racial tensions at the University of York is an especially prevalent issue that needs to be taken seriously. Unless we are seen to do something about episodes like ‘blacking up’, we may see a decline in the percentage of BME students at York (currently at 15%) and an indeterminate residence in national newspaper headlines.