Would You Think Twice about Blackface?

Al Jolson

Al Jolson

This week Charlotte of Monaco donned American Indian garb at an equestrian show in France, channeling Native spirits of yesteryear.

The theme was the American West.

So: if the theme was the Civil War, might Charlotte show up in blackface? Would she mime mammies and sambos Al Jolson-style? [See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIaj7FNHnjQ%5D

Of course not.

Showing up at an event with your face blackened would be considered bad taste. Just ask Ted Danson, who got reamed when he wore blackface to roast pal Whoopi Goldberg at a Friar’s Club appearance in the 1990s.

So why show up at a public event in Indian-face?

Because we love the exotic?

One light-hearted view is offered by the comedy troupe the 1491s, which pokes fun—usually gently—at the inane attitudes about American Indians.

Wearing turquoise earrings or listening to R. Carlos Nakai doesn’t make you Indian; yet, some folks think that by dressing the part, you become Indian.

View the clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BHvpWP2V9Y

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, film, Indian, native american, Native Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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