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Nick Cannon Whiteface: Double Standard?

    March 25, 2014
    Mike Tuttle
    Comments are off for this post.

We ran an article earlier about singer Nick Cannon’s Instagram pic showing him in “whiteface” – wearing makeup to depict himself as a white man – accompanied by several racially stereotypical hashtags. Discussion has raged about Cannon’s stunt, which was intended to promote his new alum “White People Party Music”. (Check out that article, and join the discussion.)

One of the more common comments left in discussions about Cannon’s stunt has to do with whether there is a double standard for “whiteface” versus “blackface” – the act of painting a white person to look black. Some say that there should be just as much outrage over Cannon’s picture as there was over some of the Trayvon Martin blackface costumes last Halloween, for example. Either that, or no outrage over either.

Several people have pointed to Robert Downey, Jr.’s role in Tropic Thunder as a “blackface” role. But there is almost some irony that Downey’s character lectures another about the pitfalls of “going full retard” as an actor. Downey never went “full black” in his role. He did not play a black man. He played a white man in blackface. As a result, there was little real controversy around him for that.

Some folks have mentioned Julianne Hough not being able to do blackface. This refers to the Dancing With the Stars’ celeb’s costume last Halloween where she went as a character from “Orange Is the New Black.”

The Racism Tumblr has a response to these questions. According to their site, blackface and whiteface actions are in no way comparable, for the following reasons (a partial list):

Black face:

* Started at a time when Black people were considered “Less than human”
* Shows Black people have no and deserve no dignity
* Used to de-humanize, belittle and make fun of those that are “Less than”
* Originally done by white people for white people
* Originally done by white people in white only establishments

White face:

* Done while white people are in power
* Unable to dehumanize because the power holders lose nothing (Dignity, power, ect [sic])
* Has been done to show PRIVILEGE not to show that they are “Less than.” Think about the EXACT “Stereotypes” being placed on white people while actors have done white face.
* Has no historical relevance
* If a white person’s feelings were hurt by white face, they wake up the next day and no one will judge THEM by what they saw. Black people were (and still are) BELIEVED to be these caricatures.

Do you think this line of reasoning is sound?

Does the fact that Cannon also included hashtags like “#GoodCredit #DogKissing #BeerPong #FarmersMarkets” make a difference?

What about his calling his whiteface character “Connor Smallnut”?

Let us know in the comments.

Image via YouTube


  • Let’s be real

    The reason blackface is tabu/ socially inappropriate is because of they way white people portrayed blacks as stereotypical caricatures during the 1800s. Black people were also made to wear this makeup to darken their skin as well if they wanted to become a performer. They would not be accepted on stage (by white audiences) with their natural skin exposed. They were to act out stereotypes and perform as a caricature of their own ethnicity, which reinforced stereotypes and perpetuated racist attitudes and perceptions. They were treated as circus monkeys and not as people. Many of the performers were truly talented and found it hard to participate, but had limited options if they wanted to become an entertainer/ make a living in the industry. Today African-Americans have made great strides, especially after the civil rights movement. Because the use of blackface is so historically ugly and derogatory, our modern society has come to the understanding that it is inappropriate. Especially when it is done maliciously or intended as a racial slur. The question we must ask ourselves today is, “Is nick cannon’s whiteface going to cause the same destruction and proliferating of the white race during this day in age?” Will this change peoples attitudes and perception of white people? With approximately 77 percent of Americans being white and only 13 percent being black, do we really need to feel that nick cannon is doing something to damage the white race’s reputation? Do we need to view it as racist, or can it just be taken as freedom of expression? Or a joke/ comedy, perhaps we can be a good sport and let him have his fun, without bringing up history white people should be ashamed of?
    The real question I would like to ask here is “why are people so offended by nick cannon in whiteface?” Is it because they fear this will cause stereotyping? Invalidate the white culture and society? Distort white traditions into inaccurate and offensive caricatures? Will it cause damaging effects on a marginalized group of people? Or is it because “the black people get offended by blackface, so we should have the same privilege as well?” Perhaps the “No fair they get to be offended and we don’t ” attitude? Or is it because “it hurts my feelings when people make fun of me”.
    This is what I am genuinely curious about…