Peniel E. Joseph on whether black face is "ever okay"





Fashion stuntwoman Lady Gaga is no stranger to controversial red carpet attire designed for the gossip mill, but even the provocateur pop queen’s meat gown at the recent MTV Awards couldn’t compete with the Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am’s wardrobe decision. For a futuristic performance at the pre-show, Will.i.am opted to take Jay-Z’s ‘All black everything’ mantra literally, donning head-to-toe leather and painting his face black, thereby performing a kind of inverse, 21st-Century minstrelsy, and raising the question: Is it possible to sever blackface from its hate-filled history?...

While Peniel E. Joseph, award-winning author and Professor of History at Tufts University, doesn’t believe Will.i.am intended to put on a minstrel show, he does point out that the Grammy winner, “is emblematic of a new generation that doesn’t feel as connected to historic symbols of racism and don’t really have an understanding of the history. There is this resurgence of white supremacy groups and economic anxiety, and these are all connected whether Will.i.am sees it or not,” he says....



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