Did you see the piece in Teen Vogue about a makeup artist that transformed a white model, giving her the look of a woman of color? Apparently, people are calling this “blackface” and saying how super offensive it is. As you might think, I disagree.
Obviously, whether someone is offended is between them and the art. My point is not to tell anyone that they shouldn’t be offended. But blackface and minstrel shows are not remotely the same as using makeup to transform a model. It’s not done to mock, harass, stereotype, or profit from the images of POC. Again, if that still offends you, that’s your business. But telling the artist that he’s hateful is not cool. Demanding that he take down his work or stop making it is also not cool.
There’s something else though. There’s an idea among white liberals now that if you hear any POC say they don’t like something–you’re not allowed to like it either, else you’re oppressing people. Obviously, not all POC will agree on any one issue, and suggesting that they should or do is pretty fucking racist. It’s a good thing for us white people to ease up on the idea that everything should be catered toward us. But I’m already tired of having white people explain to me that my views are wrong–because they once spoke to a POC who held a differing opinion. I know POC too. How many do I have to find that agree with me before I’m allowed to maintain my personal opinion?
In the end, the purpose of art is to challenge people, make them think. That means being uncomfortable sometimes. It also means that people will discuss, even argue, the way they see art differently. That’s not just okay, it’s vital and necessary. By that same token, there’s no art (or humor, for that matter) that one couldn’t describe as offensive to someone or something.
Take one of my fave paintings, Picasso’s Guernica (take THAT!).
Here’s a smattering of what people might say about that painting if it were unveiled today, and depicted a more modern tragedy:
“He’s making a painting about [tragedy]? What sicko wants to see that?”
“Oh sure, profit off the war why don’t you? Fascist!”
“This asshole wouldn’t be painting pretty pictures if he’d ever fucking been in a battle!”
“Where does he get off speaking for people of [place]?!?”
“There’s nothing artistic about war. War is hell.”
“I’m so sick of hearing about [event], why can’t people just let things go?”
“Artsy Fartsy cuck paints woman holding dead baby, calls it art. Bullshit.”
“We should [boycott] museum and make sure Picasso never works again!”
“Fuck painters! Sit inside all day and didn’t even join the military! MAGA”
and so forth.
“Great, another white straight man speaking for minorities! Shut up and listen, Pablo!”
IDEA: I’ve been thinking about a project wherein people send me jokes and I explain what’s potentially offensive about them. The point is to demonstrate that ANY joke can be considered offensive, because every joke comes from a place of absurdity or exaggeration. I just don’t know how to figure out the mechanics of such a thing. Is Twitter the best place for that? Or a Reddit AMA?
Why did the chicken cross the road?
“Who are YOU to interrogate that chicken? He was probably escaping from the harrowing industrial farm complex where chickens like him/her are tortured every day. But you don’t care about that, you savage carnivore! Where that bird wants to go is none of your business, they don’t owe you an explanation, and it’s offensive that you would even ask.”
I would accept responses within a specified period. The goal would be for people to try to find a joke that can’t possibly be described as offensive, then I point out how it could be.
Ultimately, we’re all allowed to find things awesome or offensive if we want to (or against our will, I suppose), and to share those thoughts with the world. What we don’t get to do is force people to stop expressing themselves because we don’t like what they’re saying. Sure, we may want to limit our exposure to such things, or even limit the venues that allow such people/works to have a voice. I wouldn’t want my tuition dollars supporting an Ann Coulter or Milo speech. But they still should be allowed to speak.