Time is a strange thing. It is said to heal all wounds. Perhaps the actor Julianne Hough and the two private citizens thought so. Unfortunately they had to find out the hard way that in the United States, time does not heal all wounds. Sleeping dogs do not lie forever buried. They have been known to be resuscitated to life with incendiary results.
Everyone knows the history of the United States. The American Indians were already here, but Christopher Columbus is credited with finding America. The Africans were brought here as slaves to clear the land for building, but were not credited for their inventions. Only after the Civil Rights Movement were their inventions fully recognized and celebrated. I will not go deeply into the injustices suffered by these peoples, but I will discuss the irony of Hough’s costume.
Minstrel shows developed after the civil war. They were forms of entertainment for white people and performed by white people. The irony is that during this peculiar time in the United States, Whites consider Blacks beneath them—inferior in their thoughts and actions. What was puzzling to Blacks back then and now, is why did they take time out of their busy day to mock something or someone they profess to intensely dislike? If something or someone is inferior to you, you will not waste your time emulating it or talking about it.
What the Whites did not realize back then is that Black people’s behavior was a defense mechanism, a coping strategy that allowed them to endure the brutality of their lives. If they wanted to live a long life, playing dumb and being extremely humble was the route to take. We were outnumbered. I must say it was the right road because we are still here, four hundred years after the fact.
Another aspect that Ms. Hough may not be aware of is that many Whites wore Blackface to commit crimes. Authorities did not readily accept this fact. If there was a report of a black person committing a crime, they looked for a black person. Even though they knew in their heart that the person accused was incapable of heinous acts. Many men and women were hung from trees because public opinion ruled the day. The town of Rosewood, Florida was destroyed because of false accusations. In Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 2009, Bonnie Sweetin, claimed her she and her daughter were kidnapped by two black men. In 2010 two white guys donned black face prior to committing a burglary.
It is my opinion that Julianne Hough, and the young men who chose costumes of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin need to revisit this country’s history. They may have thought that their costumes were unique and funny, maybe even thought they were drawing attention to injustice.
However, Minstrel shows were not then and are not now a laughing matter. I thought time had made the majority of American citizens sensitive enough to know that some things and certain subject matters are not to be taken lightly and should be off limits.