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  • Norman Young

The Black Panther Costume Is Not Blackface

Political correctness has gotten out of hand in America. That is the opinion of journalist Megyn Kelly who, earlier today, discussed with her Today Show panel about Halloween costumes. Kelly has now come under fire from the radical Left for one particular comment she made during the discussion.

"You do get in trouble if you're a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween or a black person who puts on whiteface on Halloween--back when I was a kid that was okay as long as you were dressing up as a character."

Megyn Kelly is right about this, but it is important to know why. Many older white folks in America are genuinely embarrassed by behaviors that were seen as completely normal when they were kids. They know that times have changed, and they genuinely want to be more sensitive to the feelings of others. I, for one, remember singing the song "Jesus loves the little children," and getting to run around like a Cowboy or an Indian as the line "red and yellow, black and white" was sung. Needless to say, I would not do that now.

However, even this lack of cultural sensitivity is not the same thing as genuine racism. And, what got Megyn Kelly in trouble was the use of the term "blackface." "Blackface" refers to a specific type of 19th century style of comedy that reinforced bigoted stereotypes regarding former slaves. As I previously explained, in this space, comedy is a conservative phenomenon—it tends to preserve the status quo viewpoint of a community by reinforcing its biases. And, in the late 19th century, blackface comedy was instrumental in conserving a culture of white supremacy.

There are modern equivalents of blackface humor, to be sure. Racist jokes that rely on a racist perception of black people as criminals are an example. But Megyn is right: a boy dressed up as his favorite Halloween character (that happens to be black) is not racist in any meaningful sense. If your costume is not perpetuating derogatory cultural stereotypes about minority groups, then you are not doing Halloween wrong. Let your kid be the Black Panther if he (or she!) wants to. It is far more racist to forbid it.

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