Models Sophie Applegarth and Julie Iovenitti dressed up as tennis players Venus and Serena Williams for a Christmas party through the use of blackface. “There is nothing racist about backing [your] favorite sport stars,” Applegarth and Iovenitti said in defense. Later, Applegarth put out a statement saying that they had no intent to be racist when they put these outfits on.
Blackface has always been a contested issue in the United States. When these girls decided to smear their body with brown paint, they made the decision to perpetuate black stereotypes dating back to the 19th century. Although they though they were “honoring” their favorite sports players, they were continuing a tradition that started from white men characterizing blacks through minstrel shows. Blackface was used as a means to represent the stereotypes that whites believed blacks to have.
Applegarth and Iovenitti are fetishizing black skin and it seems condescending. Seeing that they are two successful white women who are most likely successful because of the color of their skin, to use another race as a Christmas party costume is disrespectful. They are disregarding the negative connotations and the history of a whole race of people and they are making a mockery of themselves along with the black community. When people use blackface, they are codifying blackness. Unfortunately, this is a theme that continues to persist today in many spheres, such as performance spaces and college themed parties. In the end, the people who used blackface tend to claim that there was nothing ill intentioned at all about their actions. I wonder when people will recognize that blackface is not okay and truly understand why it isn’t okay. Is blackface something that just the white population does because of their dominant master white narrative? Or is blackface something that other races are also guilty of taking part in?