cloudy
Sunday February 17th, 2019 4:47AM

Blackface scandal prompts others to confront their memories

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

Mark Acosta remembers so many of the details. He was in fourth grade in a predominantly Hispanic mining town in Arizona and his teachers painted his face black for a play where he portrayed comedian Flip Wilson and his character Geraldine.

Acosta, now 57, thought nothing of it at the time. But several years later he said he realized it was ignorant and wrong. And those feelings came flooding back again after a medical school yearbook photo recently surfaced of a man in blackface standing with a person dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes on the page of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Acosta wrote about his experiences on Facebook . He said he did so because he feels many people today still don't know the painful history of blackface.

"I don't believe the people putting makeup on me were saying, 'We don't like black people, this is degrading. They thought it was a cute, humorous thing to do. It was ignorant on their part," the comedian from Tempe, Arizona, told The Associated Press.

He added, "I'm angry at the educational system and the way we deal with this with our children."

Like Acosta, others who once donned blackface have been re-examining old memories amid the uproar over Virginia's blackface scandal.

The Associated Press reached out to more than a half-dozen people who have been mentioned in news reports about wearing blackface over the past 15 years. They either didn't return messages or didn't want to speak about the experience.

But some have posted about it on social media.

Canadian-born comedian Mark Rowswell, who works mostly in China under the stage name "Dashan," posted on Twitter that he and three of his friends in Ottawa, Canada, painted their faces black and dressed as The Four Tops in high school.

Rowswell said he remembered a teacher quietly asking his drama teacher if it was racist and the drama teacher emphatically disagreeing.

At the time, Rowswell said he thought the question was bizarre too. He and his friends weren't in Ku Klux Klan robes or recreating a lynching. They were dancing and singing to what they thought was one of the coolest musical groups of the 1960s.

"We didn't understand the context or the history, or how others might see this performance entirely differently from how we had intended. Someone should have told us. In fact someone did try, but didn't get through. It was a lost opportunity," Rowswell wrote on Twitter .

He did not respond to an email from the AP.

A glimpse into the enduring practice of blackface can be found in the research of Leslie Picca, a University of Dayton sociologist who has been asking white and minority students to keep journals recording their interactions with students of their own races and students of different races.

Picca has found that white students use racist language, ideas and stereotypes more often with other white students and say they don't realize how destructive they can be.

"Whites don't think racist actions or stereotypes are a big deal because racism doesn't appear to be a big problem anymore," Picca said. "They are just playing around with it without understanding the context and depth of it."

A Virginia plastic surgeon has said he wasn't aware of the potential problems when he was shown in blackface in a yearbook photo from the same medical school where Northam's blackface photo surfaced.

Dr. Michael Breiner painted his face black in college to dress as Diana Ross for a party because he loved her group The Supremes. He told WFXR-TV in Roanoke he was sorry if anyone was offended, but added he asked black colleagues at the school if they were OK with his costume beforehand.

"If I had any inkling this would have upset them, I would not have done this," Breiner told the TV station.

But blackface has faced criticism ever since whites in minstrel shows began using it in the 1800s. That criticism has only intensified in recent years.

And ignorance of blackface's offensive nature is the painful part, said Venise Berry, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa who is publishing a book this year about how blacks are viewed in contemporary media.

"When somebody puts blackface on, it is a reminder how black people have always been considered inferior," Berry said. "Blackface has always been problematic. It is a historic, racist image of African-Americans."

Berry said whites may think they are honoring a black artist, but miss the long history of blackface, which often involved unusually large lips or buck teeth to insult and marginalize blacks simply through their appearance.

"Black culture has been normalized in society, so some people don't see this as wrong," Berry said. "But it will always be wrong."

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Politician's accuser speaks about issue of sexual assault
College professor Vanessa Tyson avoided talking directly about her accusation that Virginia's lieutenant governor sexually assaulted her, but she wasn't shy about publicly discussing her research and thoughts on the growing number of women reporting abuse
2:28AM ( 52 minutes ago )
Police detective killed by friendly fire in New York City
A New York City police detective was shot and killed by friendly fire Tuesday night while responding to a report of a gunpoint robbery at a cellphone store, Commissioner James O'Neill said
1:51AM ( 1 hour ago )
No escape? El Chapo likely off to 'prison of all prisons'
A 2-time escapee from Mexican prisons, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman will likely be sentenced to the ADX Supermax in Florence, Colorado, the most secure prison ever constructed in the United States
1:48AM ( 1 hour ago )
U.S. News
Thai party fighting for survival after gaffe with princess
The Thai political party that took the unprecedented and ultimately unsuccessful step of nominating a princess as its candidate for prime minister is fighting against moves to dissolve it
2:49AM ( 32 minutes ago )
US, China envoys hold last talks before March 1 deadline
US and Chinese trade envoys meet this week for their last negotiations before President Donald Trump decides whether to go ahead with a March 2 tariff hike on $200 billion of imports from China
2:38AM ( 43 minutes ago )
Wired to win: Wire fox terrier is Westminster best in show
A wire fox from Brazil who's won big in Europe has become America's top dog, beating out a crowd-pleasing longhaired dachshund and popular Sussex spaniel
2:24AM ( 56 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Virginia politician's accuser on Stanford sex assault panel
College professor Vanessa Tyson avoided talking directly about her accusation that Virginia's lieutenant governor sexually assaulted her, but she wasn't shy about publicly discussing her research and thoughts on the growing number of women reporting abuse
11:38PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Police say detective killed by friendly fire
New York City police say a detective was killed by friendly fire while responding to a report of an armed robbery
11:31PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: King again! Wire fox terrier wins Westminster
A wire fox terrier called King has become America's top dog
10:57PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP National News
Australia to reopen island detention camp after refugee bill
Australia to reopen a mothballed island detention camp in anticipation of new migrant smuggling attempts after Parliament bill gives sick asylum seekers easier access to mainland hospitals
10:47PM ( 4 hours ago )
Official: Police detective fatally shot in New York City
New York City police say two officers have been shot during an apparent armed robbery
10:39PM ( 4 hours ago )
Trump: Congresswoman Omar's apology for Israel remark 'lame'
President Donald Trump says freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar's apology for suggesting that members of Congress support Israel because they are being paid to do so was "lame" and she should resign
9:51PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online National News
California governor scales back high-speed train
California Gov. Gavin Newsom's office says he is fully committed to building a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco
9:15PM ( 6 hours ago )
APNewsBreak: Teach for America slammed over Oakland strike
Teach for America alumni are urging the nonprofit to stop pressuring young teachers to cross the picket line during a potential teachers strike in Oakland, California
8:51PM ( 6 hours ago )
Ex-prosecutor, brother hit with drug charges in Hawaii
A federal grand jury has indicted a former Honolulu prosecutor and her brother on drug distribution charges
8:44PM ( 6 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
The Latest: Wire fox terrier wins Westminster terrier group
A wire fox terrier named King has won the terrier group at Westminster, and now the finalists are set for the best in show ring at Madison Square Garden.
10:13PM ( 5 hours ago )
Maduro challenger plans caravans for US aid to Venezuela
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has set a deadline to bring humanitarian aid into the country over objections of President Nicolas Maduro
6:57PM ( 8 hours ago )
Wire fox takes early winning steps toward Westminster title
A prized wire fox terrier has taken some early winning steps at the Westminster Kennel Club
6:35PM ( 8 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Politician's accuser speaks about issue of sexual assault
College professor Vanessa Tyson avoided talking directly about her accusation that Virginia's lieutenant governor sexually assaulted her, but she wasn't shy about publicly discussing her research and thoughts on the growing number of women reporting abuse
2:28AM ( 52 minutes ago )
Police detective killed by friendly fire in New York City
A New York City police detective was shot and killed by friendly fire Tuesday night while responding to a report of a gunpoint robbery at a cellphone store, Commissioner James O'Neill said
1:51AM ( 1 hour ago )
No escape? El Chapo likely off to 'prison of all prisons'
A 2-time escapee from Mexican prisons, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman will likely be sentenced to the ADX Supermax in Florence, Colorado, the most secure prison ever constructed in the United States
1:48AM ( 1 hour ago )
3 siblings bond through March For Our Lives after shooting
The three Deitsch siblings have devoted long hours to the March for Our Lives movement since the Parkland school shooting last year
1:23AM ( 1 hour ago )
Petal to metal: Rose inspections didn't stop during shutdown
Roses are red _ and bug-free _ after being inspected at Miami International Airport, where 90 percent of cut flowers imported into the U.S. every year are examined
1:12AM ( 2 hours ago )