Think Bozak’s “Blackface” is Racist? You Must Be White

Posted: November 1, 2012 in Other
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(link to blog originally written for Huffington Post Canada.)

A lot of people are mad at Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak for dressing in “blackface” for Halloween. For the record Tyler is white — and in an ironic twist of fate it appears that the majority of people complaining are, you guessed it, white people.

In my opinion Bozak, dressed as a Thriller version of Michael Jackson, clearly did it all in good fun, with positive intentions. On the other side of the tracks you have got to be from another planet if you think doing something like this will not create some sort of backlash. However, knowing this and still exercising your right to express yourself through costume does not make it wrong, in this case.

I get it. I just don’t understand why people really care. A lot of people are saying, “racist intent or not, this is still a dumb move.” No. Yunel Escobar writing, “You are a faggot” in Spanish on his face during a game was a dumb move.

Yunel dehumanized and hurt a group of people in doing this. Bozak is hurting no one. Even considering the ridiculous and embarrassing history of slavery and minstrel shows, it’s still not a dumb move by Bozak. What’s dumb is that in 2012 a white guy can’t dress up for Halloween as one of the most recognized and loved human beings to ever to walk our earth. It’s Halloween!

It’s all about fun and fantasy. I find it stranger that we celebrate blood, guts and murder on this holiday. That’s weirder than a Michael Jackson fan making his face brown…not tar black, but brown. Is that really even, “blackface”? Considering my own dark complexion I guess I should be offended. But I’m not. Because I have a decent sense of humour and I recognize that no hurt, intentional or indirect, was created because a hockey player decided to have some fun and dress as an icon.

It’s a weird twist that Michael Jackson spent his entire adult life trying to make his face whiter. The irony here is sweltering.

I feel that a majority of people who are not black speak out against this only to say, “shhhh, stop, don’t do that! Are you crazy!? Dressing in black face…don’t you dare wake the sleeping beast that is black anger!” OK, I’m having a bit of fun here, but what are non-black criers actually saying other than, “Don’t paint your face black, you’re going to piss black people off”?

Are people’s outcries really about fighting for equality, or fear? Honestly it all kind of comes across as tattling to me. What are you really fighting for by saying no white person should paint his or her skin darker, even if it’s all in good fun? There is nothing racist, or even ignorant about a white person darkening his face a couple hues to portray Michael Jackson — a man who probably best transcended racial inequality.

There are more important times to cry “racism!” today. Like when a racist group ties a black man to the back of a truck and drags him until nothing but bits of skin and bone are left, or when a minority is forbidden to date a person or is unable to obtain a job because of his or her background (opposite ends of the spectrum, but both very racist).

Please fight for black people’s rights and equality when and where we need it most. Please fight for the rights of all people. Not just certain ethnicities, but fight for gender and sexual orientation issues as well. Because trust me, there are unethical practices that persist to this day, within professional and social groups. I won’t mention them because a lot are pretty obvious, but are we fighting for them? People are quick to call a foul when something appears a little left of centre, but what about raising your voice on real cultural issues, and doing something about it? We are all just yappers. I’m just as guilty.

Bozak dressing as a Thriller version of Michael Jackson for Halloween is not racist; and because it inevitably would rile people up does not make it stupid. What is stupid is that this actually does rile people up. If you think what Bozak did was wrong, or this bothers you — you need to chill out.

To the people who believe that Bozak did nothing wrong, thank you for maintaining your sanity through this trying time. However — and I can’t stress this enough — there is a fine line! Neither I nor any other black person wants to see any white person dressing up as Rosa Parks, Rodney King, or Slave #4, for Halloween. Unless you are looking to get knocked out.

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