Is the mere act of wearing minstrel stage makeup from a hundred years ago a racist act?
My intern Haley and I were walking back to the car after lunch this afternoon here in America’s oldest city, when we heard vigorous shouting coming from the area of the Prohibition Kitchen restaurant. As we got closer, the scene was a familiar one ripped right from breaking news headlines.
It seems that a server at the restaurant had decided to keep with the early 20th century theme of their work, and wore a minstrel costume complete with the blackface makeup of the period. News spread quickly, and in a very short period of time, about 50-60 college students ha assembled, with crudely-lettered signs, demanding the employee be fired and/or made to change their costume.
Here’s where things got interesting. The restaurant refused to honor their request, citing the right of their worker to dress in a legitimate period costume on a day that celebrates costumes. So the students squared off and began chanting what you see in the video.
The question is this. Is dressing like an authentic minstrel from the south on Halloween racism, or is it free expression of one’s free speech? It certainly was well within the rights of the students to do what they did, as guaranteed under our Constitution. But what about the rights of the server in the costume? Is the mere act of wearing stage makeup from a hundred years ago a racist act?
If so, where do you draw the line? Should parents whose kids were killed by violent crime be allowed to stop people from wearing a serial killer costume like Freddy Krueger on Halloween because it’s offensive to their child’s memory? Should cotton clothing be outlawed because it’s offensive to people whose great-grandparents were forced to pick cotton?
Is simply wearing blackface an act of racism?
Please post your comments below.