Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Let's condemn real racism, not pick on blackface of the week

55 comments
Matilda Rice and Art Green. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Matilda Rice and Art Green. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

A rare thing happened in our house this week because of Art Green. My husband was doing that thing he does when he fills me in on the latest story he has read in the newspaper. I ignore him. I've either already read the article on my phone or am about to.

When he said, "Oh, the Bachelor went to a fancy dress party" I ignored him. When he said, "And he painted his face brown" I sort of squealed.

It wasn't because I immediately removed Green from the bit-of-a-babe file and recategorised him as Shameless Racist.

It was because the word blackface flashed through my brain and that association alone meant he had just invited a hate-storm to rain down on him. And it did.

But again, we're off the mark. As with Labour and its so-called racist focus on offshore Chinese property investment, Green wasn't being racist.

Folks accusing Green of using blackface should school themselves up on what blackface is.

Blackface is definitely racist. Its victims are black or African American.

It is racist because it started with white entertainers in the 19th century painting their faces black, giving themselves big red lips, wigs and white gloves then acting up in the worst stereotypes about black people. It was all laziness and stupidity and had sexual overtones.

Green didn't dress up in blackface. He dressed up in an Indian outfit. At best you could accuse him of brownface, but that's not actually a thing with more than a century of baggage, is it?

If you still think that's borderline, consider the context. The Bachelor was at the birthday party of a man with Indian heritage. It'd be fair to assume he wasn't dressing up to insult his host. If Green had dressed like that for a KKK reunion, that would be racist.

If Green needs tips on how to survive the public outrage, he could call E! channel host, Giuliana Rancic.

Fashion Police panellist Giuliana Rancic was branded racist. Photo / AP
Fashion Police panellist Giuliana Rancic was branded racist. Photo / AP

She was a panellist on Sky TV celebrity style show Fashion Police when she clapped eyes on a singer called Zendaya who had her hair done in dreadlocks. Rancic said the first thing that came to mind: "Patchouli oil and weed."

Racist! said Twitter. You're drawing on stereotypes of African Americans as smelly stoners, it went on.

I'm going to spoil the indignation fun, because "patchouli oil and weed" is a reference to hippies. In a game of word association, I'm pretty sure "hippy" has a higher strike rate than "black" in relation to patchouli oil.

It's possible we're pulling the trigger on the racism outrage a little too easily. If you live by the internet's do and don't guide, it's now racist to describe US President Barack Obama's ­speeches as "articulate", at the risk of implying he's a pretty good talker for a black guy.

Throwing the racist tag around this freely reduces the punch of the accusation when an actual racist deserves a serve.

The people in Canterbury who called Fijian rugby player Sake Aca a "black c***" deserve a serve. ­Former Australian rugby league great Billy Moore, who described the Warriors' play as "coconut style" deserves a serve.

In both cases, they'd be getting off lightly if they let anyone ­consider what they said to be comparable in words to what Green did.

It wasn't.

We should be condemning real racism instead of distracting ourselves by making an example of a man who's an easy target simply because he's popular right now.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a thirty-something living between Auckland and Wellington. She has more than a decade's experience hosting and reporting on TV and radio. Heather's worked in Parliament's Press Gallery, covered the 2012 London Olympic Games, and reported from as far afield as Antarctica.

Read more by Heather du Plessis-Allan

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 29 May 2017 15:39:00 Processing Time: 492ms