Crybaby: This Picture of Coal Miners Reminds Him of Black Face, So it Must Come Down
Rashaad Thomas tells us that he’s an upset victim who deserves an apology because he went into a restaurant in Phoenix and they had up a picture of coal miners. This is one of those modern cases of “victimization” where you have to be told what the problem is because not being a b*tchy little crybaby, you wouldn’t be able to guess.
According to the article (linked) Thomas contacted the owner and let it be known that he found the picture offensive. The owner missed a teachable moment. He should have told Thomas that he had a solution. The restaurant would not charge him for the meal. In exchange, Thomas would agree not to patronize the establishment. Problem solved. Guess that’s why I’m not in the restaurant business.
Some people should not be allowed in public without a babysitter. I’m of two minds on this type of victimization scam. Taken out of context, damn near anything can be offensive. Offensive, these days, seems to be situational. Huckleberry Finn talking about Nigger Jim is offensive. Snoop Dawg talking about niggers and ho’s is art. Wrong. I see it as an all or nothing proposition.
To object, is to grab fifteen minutes of fame. It’s not about the message but the messenger. Alternately, it places the “victim” in the same category as the bigots he is condemning.
The picture shows a group of coal miners drinking beer, that’s all. Any other message that the viewer sees is a reflection of their own bias.
I am not an entertainment historian. I don’t know the origins of blackface. The film clips that I have seen are of white artists singing jazz and blues songs.
During vaudeville, the beginning of the Jazz era, and early Hollywood black and white performers couldn’t perform publicly together. That didn’t stop them. They played in after hours clubs, private residences called rent parties, and occasionally studios to make recordings. I wonder if blackface wasn’t a homage to the black musicians who remained nameless and unseen.
I am not defending blackface. The prejudice of the era that made such a move necessary is indefensible. However, there may have been a positive side that is being ignored. A musical genre Jazz and Blues largely unknown was brought to white audiences. White singers, performing in blackface, may have been sending a message. The result is Jazz and Blues were given wider play because of it. History shows the public was ready for it.
Wikipedia, the lazy man’s reference had this to say about Al Jolson, noted for his blackface performances.
Jolson has been called “the king of blackface” performers, a theatrical convention since the mid-19th century. With his dynamic style of singing jazz and blues, he became widely successful by extracting African-American music and popularizing it for white American audiences who were otherwise not receptive to the originators. Despite his promotion and perpetuation of black stereotypes, his work was sometimes well-regarded by black publications and he has sometimes been credited for fighting against black discrimination on Broadway as early as 1911. In an essay written in the 21st century, Ted Gioia of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia remarked, “If blackface has its shameful poster boy, it is Al Jolson”, showcasing Jolson’s complex legacy in American society.
Seems to me this is a marginal complaint made by a marginal person.