Column: Blackface should not be tolerated

Blackface isn’t something that should just be overlooked — people need to be held accountable for their actions.

Madi Baughman is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about political and civil rights issues for The Maneater.

One thing we’ve seen a lot of controversy over in the news recently is famous people or authority figures in blackface, both recently and in the past. Even if the incident took place years ago, people are finally being held accountable for their actions. Blackface even hits close to home here in Columbia. Recently MUPD officer Marcus Collins was fired after a photo of him in blackface resurfaced.

To start, we have to explain why this is a problem and explore why many people don’t see it as such. Many people don’t understand why blackface is an issue, particularly those who have never experienced racism before.

To those people, they might claim it’s nothing more than a costume. When Collins did it, he claimed it was a costume portrayal of the rapper Flavor Flav. In theory, this doesn’t seem too harmful — however, it goes a lot deeper than that. It can also be said that it seems pretty obvious that unflattering representations of black people are offensive and racist in general.

The major reason why blackface is problematic is because it has historically racist connotations. In the 19th century, white actors would smear their faces with black paint to portray a mocking version of the African American.

In a society that regularly dehumanized black people, the portrayals put on by these actors made it clear that they viewed black people as inferior. Simply put, it’s indecent and racist, and it’s important to recognize how things that happened in history still have effects on people and society today.

The fact that the university acted quickly to remove the individual who wore blackface is applaudable, and I think this sets an example for what should continue to happen. Far too often these cases are simply swept under the rug or ignored, such as Virginia governor Ralph Northam, who still hasn’t explained the photo of him in blackface.

You can combine that with the fact that Collins had a position of power. Because of that, consequences of ignoring a case like this could have an impact that was a lot more negative. This is especially important since campus is a place where everyone is supposed to feel safe.

It’s important to note that people can grow and change, and that their viewpoints can change over time as they become more educated on the topic. However, people should still be held accountable for the things they’ve done, and they should acknowledge that before moving forward.

Especially for people in power, it is important to remove them from situations where people may feel uncomfortable or even threatened.

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