First, some housecleaning stuff. WordPress is beautifully updated and I can still use it, but I can’t wait till iOS 14 and iPad OS 14 so I can play further with WordPress and write informative things like this. Now, the meat and potatoes.
It was brought to my attention that people are wanting to delete and cancel Judy Garland over the thought of her wearing and displaying a phenomenon in costuming known as “black face.” Black face was done in many old time contexts, so I’m going to be clear. We can’t cancel Judy Garland, but the more recent scrubbing of shows with black face is warranted. The black face thing is offensive, no doubt about it, but Judy was forced to do blackface because she had to do what the studio told her to do. Black face was so popular in the 1930s, and the 1940s, but there was something more institutionally racist than just the black face thing.
If you wanted to dress as a Mexican, there was something called “brown face.” Not something I would do either, but cancel culture will mess history up. Yes, we now have laws that say you have to learn the warnings of history such as the Holocaust, the institutionalized bias against disabled adults, the lobotomization of Rosemary Kennedy among others. We can’t cancel out history, because some of it is repeating itself already.
Black face was usually done with pork fat on the person’s face, turning it black, or with black makeup, so the other thing I want to settle is the thing about black face in Mary Poppins. It did not happen because the chimney sweeps naturally were exposed to soot, so picture yourself cleaning chimneys where fires burned, every single day, and picture your own face being covered in soot. That’s not black face. I went to a race thing in Bithlo, Florida years ago, just to watch a church family friend race his car. We sat in a long deserted hearse used for funerary arrangements, and combined with the dust all over the tracks in Bithlo, I got my poor face covered in dust and dirt. No, that wasn’t black face, it was dirty face. That’s different, but it sure made my face look strange.
If you want to dress in black face, simply don’t. The Jack Benny program podcast This Day in Jack Benny has a commentary done by the one John Henderson that explains that black face is dated, and he told us about it for the sake of history. Cancel culture is stupid, plain and simple.