To understand what is meant by “blackfacing”, it is helpful to look at the German translation of the English term. In German, blackfacing means blackening one’s face.
What is meant by “blackfacing “
The phenomenon of white people blackening their faces to pass as African American is not unique to Carnival, but has a long tradition in the entertainment industry. Blackfacing as a practice was in vogue for a long time, but is now banned on stages due to the underlying racism.
- The term “blackfacing” originated in the USA.
- There, there were so-called “minstrel shows” that shaped the practice of white people pretending to be African-American.
- “Minstrel shows” are musical and general entertainment events in which white performers caricature the music and dance of African Americans.
- To do this, they painted their faces with dark, black paint and emphasised other stereotypes, such as oversized lips.
This is why “blackfacing” is controversial
In the USA, attention was already drawn to how racist “blackfacing” is at the beginning of the 20th century. In Germany, too, the stage masquerade is frowned upon.
- “Blackfacing” is considered a racist practice that serves stereotypes and can hurt the feelings of African Americans.
- In the aforementioned “minstrel shows,” people of color were often portrayed as kind-hearted but dimwitted and always happy-go-lucky.
- This was intended to amuse and not necessarily to defame African Americans. Nevertheless, the amusement was aimed at a systematically oppressed minority who had little opportunity to make their voices heard or to fight back.
- So just because everyday racism happens unconsciously, it is still racism.