Gov. Northam, Mark Herring controversy ‘accents America’s long, ugly history of blackface’

Wornie ReedOver the weekend a racist image on Virginia Gov. Northam’s medical school yearbook page sparked controversy, outrage and several calls for his resignation.

On Wednesday Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring acknowledged he put on blackface as an undergraduate student in 1980.

Director of the Race and Social Policy Research Center at Virginia Tech, Wornie Reed, says “wearing blackface demonstrates a longstanding, painful history of its use in American history.”

Reed on the controversy

“The impression that audiences received from blackface and these inaccurate caricatures was that these types of behavior and images seen in entertainment were typical of black Americans, so the use of blackface was always intended to be disparaging. It perpetuated stereotypes of black Americans and promoted white supremacy.”

“We must address racism every time it occurs. It’s important to have open conversations involving groups and communities to overcome and stop these types of incidents. Issues such as the controversy surrounding the governor will continue to happen until we work as a community to stop it.”

“The use of blackface originated with white actors in the early-1800s who darkened their skin for performances.”

“In addition to painting their face black, actors would have distorted features, and  sing and dance comically as if they were mimicking blacks. These grotesque portrayals of black Americans had a critical impact on white Americans’ perception of blacks — as dumb, lazy, and happy-go-lucky.”

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