We were watching “Predator” over the weekend, and saw Arnold Schwarzenegger color his skin black—using mud—to escape the deadly alien’s heat-based vision. Now, why doesn’t this qualify as blackface, thus threatening Arnold with “cancellation” and the film, an action classic, with permanent shelving? Don’t tell me it’s because there is a good reason for Arnold, who is as white as you can get, darkening his skin. We have been told that intentions don’t matter when it comes to this crime against racial justice. Fred Astaire wearing dark make-up to honor his black tap teachers in “Top Hat” is per se racist. Wearing black make-up to portray a black historical character in a private Halloween party is racist. Lawrence Olivier wearing dark make-up to play Othello is racist. Robert Downey, Jr. wearing dark make-up to satirize actors who go to excess to get in character for their roles is racist. Where is the “Exception for someone trying to avoid being killed by a hunter from outer space” written down?
After I re-posted and revised the “White Christmas” ethics guide, I watched the movie again (early in the morning before my wife, who hates it, was awake). I was reminded that the show Bing and Danny put on for the old General’s struggling Vermont inn has an extended number praising minstrel shows. Minstrel shows were always performed in blackface; in fact, it was the shows as much as the make-up that were mockeries of blacks and their culture. How does “White Christmas” get a pass on that number from our woke censorious masters? In the minstrel show number, the performers allude to “Mr. Bones” routines. Here’s what they are referring to:
Then we watched the new Netflix production of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” directed by “Angels in America” director George C. Wolfe. The black characters call each other “niggers” about fifty times during the short play adaptation, and not always affectionately, either. Meanwhile, multiple professors in various universities have been attacked, punished and even forced to resign for using the same word as an illustration of controversial speech. How do we reconcile such a bizarre double standard? If the word is such a taboo that it can’t be uttered in a classroom discussing it from a linguistic or legal perspective, how can a national streaming service allow the same word to be used over and over again for entertainment?
Is it OK because the professors were white and the actors, playwright and director are black? That sounds like racial discrimination to me, because it is. Besides, the actual communicator of the multiple “niggers” is Netflix, a company with an overwhelmingly white management and consumer base.
So what’s the rule? The answer seems to be that the rules will be made up as the racial-grievance mob chooses, to ensure that non-African Americans in all contexts and settings can be made submissive, fearful, and perpetually groveling.
But it’s effective.