Friday, April 17, 2009

When Is Blackface OK?

Controversy ensued when a Turkish broadcaster put on blackface to deliver a commentary about Obama following the President's recent visit to Turkey. Memo to foreigners: a solid rule of thumb for when to use blackface is NEVER. I've always thought that the biggest thing that foreigners do not, maybe cannot understand, about America is race. Uniqueness comes with a price! Some places -- South Africa, or parts of Latin America and the Caribbean -- have similarly tortured racial legacies, but it's really the unique inter-operation of race and class that makes American race relations so sui generis, and so difficult to understand something like blackface which lies squarely at the intersection of those two concepts.