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re: Bennett's original setting for "Story of Lucy and Jessie" was a minstrel show.
Posted by: portenopete 12:10 am EST 02/07/19
In reply to: Bennett's original setting for "Story of Lucy and Jessie" was a minstrel show. - Delvino 08:13 pm EST 02/06/19

I had no idea that that had been the original concept for the number.

It goes a ways in illustrating how unconcerned most white people were with the detritus of minstrelsy and how ignorant of a lot of the sign posts. I am 53 and have never known until just now that Mickey Mouse was created with a Minstrel Show image in mind. Nor would I have necessarily clued into the white gloves and hidden faces of a chorus as being redolent of a Minstrel Show.

As intent goes I have been having a lot of trouble with the current stance of a lot of younger people to categorise anyone who ever put any kind of coloured makeup on to suggest a culture other than their own as bald and blatant racists. I do not believe Laurence Olivier had any desire to mock or belittle the black experience the way a Minstrel Show would when he played Othello. Not to suggest that, if pressed, he mightn't have revealed all sorts of racist and prejudiced tendencies typical of a man of his generation and provenance, but it wasn't because he played Othello with makeup and a somewhat untraceable accent.

The current frenzy among the commentariat about the Virginia governor is hilarious. As a 53-year old myself (from a racially integrated North Eastern city) I can attest that while not at all common, the practice of putting black makeup on to play Michael Jackson or some other celebrity was not something that felt verboten. Billy Crystal regularly played Muhammad Ali and Sammy Davis, Jr. on SNL when I was growing up and there was never any discomfort in watching him because he wasn't satirising a culture, but rather individuals. (Just like he wasn't satirising all Hispanics when he played Fernando Lamas.)

In Britain the Black and White Minstrel Show persisted, astonishingly- into the 1980's on national television. I have only seen clips and I don't know how offensive it might have been when it began, but by that point it was just a bunch of white chorus boys and chorines in black face and Afro wigs singing songs that seemed to have nothing to do with black culture and certainly not mocking or belittling black culture.

I'm not arguing that, for black people, it wasn't offensive and if pressed they would have let you know it. But a lot of - if not most- white people were ignorant of the offence it caused. I don't even think it was wilful ignorance; more like careless ignorance.

That kind of thoughtlessness that all those Virginia pols displayed as students seems so far below the level of what we have witnessed during the last three years, where an unapologetic misogynist racist has been allowed to defile entire nations and stereotype noble and hard-working people as marauding criminals and savages with impunity and even pride, and thus far has paid no penalty.

I feel like we are allowing the enemy to force us into dividing and conquering, both in politics and in the broader culture at large.

By all means: call them to account. Expose their embarrassing and offensive actions and underline the hurt it caused people and continues to cause.

And then move on. If the voters decide that Northam and Herring deserve to be punished for their actions then they will do it at the ballot box.

Let's instead turn our attention to the evil of voter suppression and the organised and insidious campaign to disenfranchise non-white voters. Let's hope Stacey Abrams does run for Senate and succeeds Purdue. We need her voice on this issue to remain strong and passionate.
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Previous: Specifics - pierce 09:01 am EST 02/09/19
Next: re: Bennett's original setting for "Story of Lucy and Jessie" was a minstrel show. - 37Rubydog 12:21 am EST 02/07/19
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