By Michael Harriot
Greetings White people!
It is rare that we break the fourth wall and address you specifically on this site, but this year we would like to take a preemptive strike and address the elephant in the room before the nonsense begins. As we enter the month of October, once again we approach the season of your silly shenanigans and we have but one request of you:
Chill with the blackface this year.
As a person of color, I confess that it seems like a simple request. I admit that I am not equipped with whatever it is that makes it so hard for your people to accept the yearly pleas of every rational-thinking human being who advises you not to darken your skin for Halloween. I am sure it is cultural. As a Black man Halloween has always been centered around two things. Until I was twelve years old it was about free candy. After the age of eighteen It became an opportunity for women to dress up in “sexy” outfits without judgement. If it wasn’t for the sexy nurses, the sexy police officers and the sexy teacher costumes, we’d probably take a pass on the whole thing because it falls smack dab in the middle of HBCU homecoming season.
I understand it is different for you. For you and your Caucasian counterparts Halloween falls somewhere between Christmas and the return of Jesus on the level of importance. You even have a different name for it. We call it “dressing up” but you have termed it “cosplay” (Which, for a while, I thought was the act of dropping pills in the drink of unsuspecting women on the set of sitcoms. I have since been corrected).
Whatever you choose to call it, we just ask that your costume doesn’t include shoe polish on your face this year. We know you can do it. We have faith in you. We’ve seen you practice restraint, like that one time in 1987 when you went an entire day without committing an act of police brutality.
OK, I know that is a lot to ask, but we are willing to compromise. If you absolutely, positively must cover your face in dark makeup, how about doing it in the privacy of your own home? Is that too much to ask?
I think that’s the part where you lose us. Does whatever primal call you hear that magnetically pulls you towards covering your face in brown sharpie also block the common sense gland in your brain? That’s the only reason we can conclude why you would not just eschew every warning against blackface, but you do it in public!
We don’t just blame you. We blame everyone who knows you. We blame the friend who rode with you to the party. We blame the Uber driver who dropped you off. We blame the person who person answered the door and allowed the wearer of Blackface to come into the shindig without commenting on the person’s violation of the social taboo. We blame the one person in the contingent of Caucasian costume revelers who took a picture of it and thought “You know what? I should post this on Facebook.”
Did you hear that? That was all the Black people and every right-thinking white person in the world loudly sighing. They’re disappointed in your choices.
Look, if you wear a Mohawk, 72 gold chains and a muscle shirt—we get it—you’re Mr. T. Its not as if the lack of a brown face makes us think you’re Meryl Streep (which, I’d like to point out, as I typed it I realized is the whitest name in the history of names). If your costume is on point, you don’t need to sully your reputation and embarrass your coworkers by plastering burnt cork over your face.
We’re not telling you this just because Blackface is incredibly offensive. We just want to help. In fact, in an age when our social media timelines are filled with videos of police officers shooting Black people in the back, your blackface gaffes offer a welcome respite from the solemn hopelessness that sometimes seems inescapable. At the monthly global meeting of Black people where we come up with styles for y’all to steal and learn new line dances, we often make bets on how many blackface apologies we will get this year.
It’s just that the joke is old now. We know that you know it is wrong, but you keep doing it. This is why we decided to send you this early notice in the hopes that you will consider saving yourself from the embarrassment and shame of having to issue a carefully worded mea culpa while your head is still banging from tequila shots. This Halloween, be whatever you want, but no blackface. Trust us.
You can always be a sexy nurse.