Blackface being wrong and racist is not new, writes Jasmine Razeghi.
On June 23rd, 30 Rock creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock apologized and removed four episodes of the series that featured blackface from Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other purchase platforms. Today, the series Scrubs had three of its episodes removed from Hulu because of its display of blackface as well.
The sudden move to hold celebrities accountable for blackface comes amidst the backlash celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon recently faced for their use of blackface in the past. The recent unrest in the U.S. brought racial injustice and racism to the center of attention.
Blackface being wrong and racist is not new. The series 30 Rock had its last episode in 2013. Including the time when it was still aired, the creators had over 7 years to address its blackface problem. The series Scrubs ended in 2010, with over 10 years for creators to apologize or remove their blackface episodes. Why now?
Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon Issue Apologies
On Tuesday, Kimmel issued an apology over his controversial use of blackface during his time on The Man Show. “I believe that I have evolved and matured over the last 20-plus years, and I hope that is evident to anyone who watches my show,” Kimmel stated. His apology fell short of directly mentioning his history of blackface.
The media historically used blackface to mock and perpetuate stereotypes of Black people.
In May, Fallon apologized for his use of blackface during a Saturday Night Live skit where he imitated Chris Rock. “I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface… I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable,” Fallon tweeted.
The History of Blackface
The media historically used blackface to mock and perpetuate stereotypes of Black people. Jim Crow, a character created in 1830, was a prominent figure in entertainment for white people. I Thomas Rice, a racist playwright, created Jim Crow based on the slaves he observed in the South. The name Jim Crow went on to be the name of laws that implemented segregation in the United States.
Blackface made Black people appear inferior and mocked their intelligence, dialect, dancing, and physical features. With this mockery, these racist ideas about Black people made its way into American society and perpetuated anti-blackness.
The issue with Blackface was not created recently. The George Floyd protests did not make Blackface an issue. So why are celebrities only held accountable now? Perhaps these apologies and the removal of racist episodes are because these celebrities reflected on their racist acts and wanted to own up to them. Maybe public pressure made them feel that they needed to act in order to preserve their image and keep their jobs.