America’s Got Talent host and permanent Nickelodeon star (in my brain, at least) Nick Cannon is in hot water after he posted some photos on his Instagram that made a bunch of people throw a fit. Was he promoting violence? Nay. Objectifying women? Nope. So what could it possibly have been?
He wore whiteface.
Nick Cannon wore whiteface.
Oh. My. Goodness.
Okay, so here’s the rundown: Nick Cannon presumably had a makeup artist put a bunch of makeup on his face, making him effectively look like a 19-year-old white kid whom he’s called “Connor Smallnut.” This was in order to promote his album “White People Party Music.” The photos are mildly terrifying.
It’s official… I’m White!!! #WHITEPEOPLEPARTYMUSIC#Wppm in stores April 1st!!!!!!Dude Go Get It!!!Join The Party!!!! #GoodCredit #DogKissing #BeerPong#FarmersMarkets #FistPumping #CreamCheeseEating#RacialDraft “Bro I got drafted!!”
Okay, so it’s obnoxious–but guys, it’s not racist, even though people are absolutely freaking out over it. A sampling of tweets:
Kind of funny how Nick Cannon can put some makeup on and pretend to be white, but if that was reversed and a white person did it’s “racist”.
— ron (@IceyyBryceyy) March 25, 2014
Nick cannon in whiteface for his album is “funny” Julianne hough in blackface for Halloween is “racist” I’ll take double standards for 500. — Nour Malki (@not_NourMal) March 24, 2014
how can nick cannon dress in white face for a cd promo, but when julianne hough wears black face for halloween she’s racist #dumb
— Lauren (@aayo_LOLO) March 24, 2014
It’s fine for Nick Cannon to dress up as “whiteface” but when Julianne Hough dresses as a “blackface” character off a TV show it’s racist?
— Whitley Gayle (@Whitley_Gayle) March 24, 2014
You get the gist. Basically, white people are freaking out over the “double standards” involved in whiteface versus blackface, and crying about how Julianne Hough was criticized after she wore blackface for Halloween. But hey! Everyone deserves an explanation. Here’s why it’s different, as per the RacismSchool Tumblr:
- Blackface evolved in a time when people of color were considered literally less than human. It originated when white people were still allowed to own black people.
- Blackface was used by white people to entertain other white people, the dominant and privileged group.
- Racism was ingrained in our legal system at the time when blackface was most popular.
- Blackface was done as a caricature of black people. It influenced how audiences saw people of color at the time; whiteface hasn’t had an extremely detrimental effect on how the world sees white people. White blonde women didn’t suffer an image crisis after White Chicks.
Nick Cannon wasn’t being racist when he did whiteface. Yes, he was (and is) being stupid, because this was a stupid means by which to publicize an album and also why the eff is Nick Cannon making another album?, but that’s besides the point. You cannot ignore the history behind blackface or claim “reverse racism” because tada! Reverse racism doesn’t exist. (Of course, if you are a time traveler and choose to use your powers to swap out white people as the dominant group, then yes, you’ll be reversing racism, sort of.)
When you remove imperialism, colonialism, slavery, segregation, privilege, and institutionalized inequality from the equation, then yes, it looks like there’s a double standard, but remind me of a time when white people–as a whole–were subjected to centuries upon centuries legally permissible, socially accepted racism. We still live in a country where people find it offensive to see a mixed race couple and their child, where Twitter users lose their minds if somebody sings “America The Beautiful” in anything other than English, where brands would rather paint a white model black than use a black model to represent their products. Sororities think it’s hilarious to dress up as Latino caricatures, who are all apparently illegal, lazy and stoned (and just on a personal note, the number of emails and comments I got calling me a “spic drug dealer” after I wrote this article last year was borderline absurd). Black actresses are infrequently recognized for work that doesn’t pertain to race or racism–because they’re rarely given the opportunity to act in huge films that don’t have a racial component to their story lines. Stores like Macy’s still detain black shoppers under suspicions of shoplifting after they purchased items in the store. The list goes on.
See, there’s a difference between this…
Cannon pulled a dumb move in an attempt to snag publicity. “Connor Smallnut” looks unreasonably creepy and has the creamy pinkish complexion of a Pepto Bismal bottle, and that’s weird. And doing Instagram captions with that many lengthy hashtags is a crime in itself. Basically, he’s just trying to get a bunch of attention for his album and that’s…fine. Whatever. That said, he’s not being racist; he’s just being stupid.