Blackface within Cosplay & My Personal Feelings about it

I know that Black face, Brown face, Yellow face & Red face are wrong.

I know that there are some cosplayers who desire to look exactly like the character that they are portraying to a tee, skin tone included, and for the purpose of accuracy, will darken their skin or change their physical features to ethnically look more like the characters, such as pulling their eyes up with tape to look more Asian, or something of that nature. Hollywood is infamous for this type of thing and they have a long history and present of it. Present: Actor who plays Tony Stark black facing in Tropic Thunder.

Even though I am aware that this is wrong, it is not something that infuriates me.

It does not infuriate me like it infuriates other people.

I have seen this as one of the top three topics spoken about on POC cosplay pages.

While I understand that this is a sensitive issue for other people, it is not an issue with which I have dealt with first-hand, and it is not an issue with which (to my knowledge) I have encountered at any convention that I have attended.

Therefore, not having had any personal experience surrounded with B.B.Y.R. face, I suppose that I do not have any personal hurt feelings towards the issue, because it has not affected me directly.

I understand that due to the history of minstrels why this action would be very harmful, but as I will say again it has not directly affected me yet.

I also acknowledge the fact that this is not an action with which I have any control. If there are cosplayers who are hell-bent on darkening their skin or pulling back their eyes or altering their physical characteristics to look more ethnic, there is nothing that I can do to stop them.

All I can do is request that they cease and desist, or get a bunch of people on the internet to berate them but past that, excluding physical violence and terroristic threats,  there is not much more that can be done to stop it.

I would never physically assault someone for doing it because I don’t want to go to jail, and I don’t think it’s worth that kind of reaction, energy or violence. I can’t speak on how I would react if this were to happen in front of my eyes because it has not happened in front of my eyes yet.

When I attend a cosplay convention, I want to have the utmost amount of fun, and I use it as an escape, so the last thing that I would like to do is have that euphoric Utopian escape ruined by allowing myself to get angry at something that I cannot control.

When I cosplay I dress up as a character that may reflect an aspect of my true character that I cannot fully express or I dress up as someone that’s totally opposite of my character like a psychotic villain.

There are so many people dressed up as so many things with so many different colors and wigs and body alterations, that it would be very difficult, I would think, to be able to tell who is dressed up as someone outside of their race.

There are people who have painted their skin purple, green or pink (which I know it’s not a fair comparison to Blackface) because those are alien colors not human colors, but hear me out in the case of Garnet from Steven Universe.

Characters such as Garnet from Steven Universe, who is maroon colored which is a dark red, could easily be mistaken as a shade of brown.

I will say that everyone who is accused of doing Black face isn’t necessarily doing it on purpose, and while this opinion is highly unpopular, it still does ring true that everyone who does something they are not supposed to is not doing it out of malicious intent.

This is not to justify the action, but it is to point out that there are some blurred lines such as characters that are colored colors that could be mistaken as shades of brown.

Intent also counts as well. Nationality is also a factor. There are non-Americans who have grown up in homogeneous communities within which may not be aware of the racial disrespect or history of minstrels in which changing ones color for cosplay would be highly offensive. There are Japanese girls who darken their skin simply to do what is called “Gyaru” style with bleached hair, lips and eye shadow. This is actually done in response and rebellion to the standard of pale skin requirements in Japan. There are also Korean cosplayers who again live in very homogeneous societies.

Some argue that Koreans are more than aware of racial issues because on their television there are mistrel-esque depictions of Black people and Koreans dressed up in Blackface. However I would state that there is a difference between people who are performing actual mistrels with the full intent of mocking Black people, versus people who’s sole intent was to cosplay accurately. Doesn’t justify the action, but I think stating that everyone who does it, that their intent is malicious, and that everyone in the global world is aware of the offense, is incorrect and generalizing.

I’m also aware that people tan during the summer naturally and unnaturally and I am not really bothered by that, so if I see a cosplayer who is originally very pale and they have a unnatural tan, that actually doesn’t really irritate me that much.

A lot has to do with familiarity though, because if I had a close White friend of mine suddenly darken their skin for a convention, I would be highly uncomfortable, but because these are strangers, I don’t care that much what they are doing, because I will never see them again, and I am not involved with them in my life.

Recently in a cosplay group of color there was a discussion about an Korean cosplayer who has played a character (Sombra, who is a tan-skinned Mexican.) I thought the cosplay was beautiful, and I was not offended or bothered by it at all.

There was a white girl who darkened her skin dark brown to cosplay Michonne from The Walking Dead. To me I was more so uncomfortable with the Michonne cosplay because it was by an American girl with a very different skin tone from her own. For the Korean cosplayer however, I don’t feel that uncomfortable with a slight tan.

That is not to take away from the validity and justification of the people who are offended, but I will also not pretend to be offended by something that does not offend me.

I also will not be pressured into feeling something that does not offend me, needs to offend me.

I left the conversation because I felt that people were misunderstanding my point of view and that people were attacking me online when I was just expressing an unpopular opinion.

Also when I joined these groups of cosplayers of color I have to say that it is quite annoying to me to be honest, that almost every other post is about anger over Black facing because I want to enjoy and celebrate POC cosplay.

I don’t want to spend time focusing on negative things or things that upset us in a group where we really should be focusing on elevating ourselves and celebrating with other POC cosplayers..

I know that the cosplay Community is not an oasis where race doesn’t exist, but I will say that it is a place where I desire to escape the negative things of society with which I am forced to endure, and for a few hours pretend that everything is nice, fun, enjoyable and free and I wish to be around people who share my same interests.

I acknowledge that I do not have to be part of these online groups, and that I do not have to participate in conversations about Black face and it probably is best considering that my opinion is a very unpopular one.

However I would say that if I were to create a POC cosplay group I would hope that the main focus would be on celebration, promotion and networking and that racial issues would not be discussed as frequently.

Some may argue that this is the only safe space for POC cosplayers to express their disgust at the treatment that they receive at conventions, however when I think about what I do as a catharsis in response to racial problems, I think to myself that cosplay is one of those forms of coping and therapy in which I can be an “invincible superhero” or a “popular villain” and I don’t care to be constantly reminded of the harsh realities of my true existence.

I say all that to say that perhaps these groups are not what I’m looking for in a POC cosplay group, because real life racial issues are brought up so often, that I do not feel that I can enjoy the illusion of escapism that I desire.

I also want to point out in a general sense that as a Black woman living in the United States, I really can’t afford the luxury of being angry and offended by everything that people do, that is angering and offensive towards Black people.

It doesn’t mean that an action is no longer offensive, but it angers me that other Black people create a necessity of unified outrage to be demonstrated to prove true Blackness or to validity to heal their own issues.

If I let it, I could let Blackface really piss me off, but the fact of the matter is that it’s done in a space that I’m entering to relax, unwind, have fun and remain un-bothered. For that same reason people may be so adamant to stop it, because they feel that they can’t relax and have fun, unless it’s dealt with and ended for good.

Out of the tens of thousands of cosplayers to come to conventions, there will never be a day where not a single one of those individuals does it, at least I believe, in my lifetime. I’m not on a mission to find them, and I’m not really analyzing anyone who is painted to tell if they are doing it or not.

I don’t want some stranger’s actions to take away from any of my fun, especially when it’s done as therapeutic, cathartic fun, to escape the ugliness of the world into a weekend of fantasy and playtime.

The only feelings I feel when I see it done is these several reactions below:

Well that’s weird.

They probably shouldn’t do that.

It’s kind of dangerous to do that.

People will get mad and drag them or attack them if they realize they’re doing that.

Why would they do that in the first place?

Why is it so important to them to do this controversial thing simply for cosplay accuracy?

Some people for whom I shared my feelings with pointed out that due to the sensitive history of minstrel shows for whom our parents endured, it would strike a sensitive chord to see someone Black facing. However, most the people I see arguing about it are within my generation of young adults.

Just like there are white people who tan in the Summer time, I am used to seeing people who are pale darken their skin for aesthetic purposes. I am not saying that it is ok or the same as Black face. If there are people outraged over unnatural tanning, I am not aware, but because of that, I don’t flip out when I see someone tan their skin for a character because I don’t really see much of a difference between body paint and going to a tanning bed for the Summer. Painting you skin an outright over the line dark brown color however would be very noticeable. Going a shade, two or even three lighter or darker doesn’t really offend me.

For darker skinned cosplayers who lighten their skin for characters, again I would say that it’s unnecessary and strange to do so. I would worry that they did so out of insecurity, like that they thought that their skin wasn’t aesthetically pleasing or something like that was done out of shame which is not an equal circumstance to light people darkening their skin.

I’d also like to add that some people naturally tan much darker in the Summer than the way their skin looks in the Winter. I myself am middle-toned and I look much paler in the Winter than in the Summer when I am 3-4 tones darker. Anyone who has seen me during a Summer convention and then at a Winter convention could easily accuse me of “Blackfacing” while cosplaying.

Anyway those are just my thoughts on Blackface.

It doesn’t bother me nearly as much as I have seen it bother other people online.

And I will also point out that it does not make me a Blackface defender because no I do not SUPPORT it, it just doesn’t bother me that much. It not bothering me as much, doesn’t make it right. I don’t appreciate my words or points of view taken out of context and I never said that is was an alright thing to do.

I think it’s really doing the most to hunt Black-facers down online, screen shot them, and conversations had with them, put them on blast on a POC cosplayer group, rally other POC cosplayers to go on their page, and drag them.

Because honestly who is controlling who at this point? Who is winning here? You have paused you whole life to invest hours into this person. They have successfully gotten your attention, affected your emotions, disrupted what was supposed to be a fun activity for you and now have control of those emotions still, if they refuse to apologize.

I even saw comments about Blackfacing cosplayers who were addressed, who apologized, but then individuals stated that they doubted the sincerity of the apology. Well you can’t force anyone to be sorry.

I don’t understand why people insist on apologies.

There are different kinds and most of the time my apologies are: I am sorry that I hurt your feelings, I did not intend to hurt your feelings, but I am not sorry for what I have done and I will continue to do so. This is in other life circumstances where I feel I did not do something wrong, but I acknowledge that someone has been hurt, and I don’t wish ill will or suffering upon said person. I don’t say this out loud but it’s what I mean by most of my apologies. Some will say then don’t apologize at all, yet the individual seems that they will have no peace in their spirit without it.

Honey, in life we HAVE to be able to survive without apologies or remorse from our enemies. I don’t even understand requesting apology from Black-facers because while yes it could be done out of ignorance I’d say more than not and I could be wrong, it usually isn’t done out of ignorance. I figure that they already knew what they were about to do was controversial, and they knew the possible consequences and they are going to continue to do it anyway. Honestly internet people are not intimidating in the least. Any comments can be deleted, any profiles can be blocked. Those cosplayers will block and delete and move on with their lives while you’re still fuming and suffering because you’re so livid about it.

They are gonna do it whether we like it or not. If you want to be an anti-Blackface activist then let it be so and fight your noble cause, but don’t come down my throat because I’m not as passionate. I had to learn that as an activist myself for many things. It’s wrong to force people to do anything, to pressure, to bully, to simply obligate action because you’re from the same “tribe.”

To me when it comes to Black issues, there are much bigger fish to fry. I think that issues such as Police Brutality, Mass Incarceration and Student Discrimination in Schools is far more important than some rinky-dink cosplayer who decided to paint him or herself brown at a convention. In one circumstance people are being killed, or made to perform slave labor while innocent, or held back in school versus people simply being insulted.

So those are just my “unpopular” thoughts on Blackface

And for the record I’m tired of POC groups spending so much time discussing outsider’s infractions upon our community. What I want from a POC group is to talk about US, celebrate US, focus on US and the last thing that I want to focus on in a safe space for Blacks and or POCs is what non-POCs are doing to piss us off.

I wanna breathe for once, have fun for once, smile for once, and imagine that yes, I do live in a comic world, where heroes save us before the cops can shoot us down. I want to experience a place where it’s cool to be a villain (at a convention), and being bad is not judged as a deep flaw of character but sympathized with as a complex, hurting individual whose backstory’s turn to darkness is infamously adored throughout the fandom.

Hence one of the reasons I love to cosplay villains…

But that’s another blog for another time.

So I say enjoy cosplay, despite the disrespectful offensive people. You’re there for fun. I say, don’t give them the time of day or waste any valuable cosplay time on them.

Just my thoughts…

*Unpopular as they may be

Life is too dang gone short to be dragging people on the internet, for real…

And that too is also another blog

For another time