Blackface is more than just burnt cork applied as makeup. It is a style of entertainment based on racist Black stereotypes that began in minstrel shows and continues to this day writes Sonja Uwimana.
Apparently not content with her failed attempt at igniting controversy last year with her questionable spread in Italian Vogue, US based Barbadian R&B recording artist Rihanna has decided to try her hand yet again at the latest epidemic of Blackface entertainment sweeping the globe. This time through her new and, let’s be honest, particularly boring video for Rockstar 101. In it, she doesn’t wear much, she writhes around, she impersonates Guns N’ Roses drummer Slash, as well as someone who may or may not be Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Oh, and in some scenes (perhaps as an ode to the pioneering work of US Black supermodel Tyra Banks), her entire body is covered in what looks like black body paint or makeup…while she is wearing chains. Good girl gone real bad or “fierceness out of control”? You decide.
The stock characters of Blackface minstrelsy have played a significant role in disseminating racist images, attitudes and perceptions worldwide. Every immigrant group was stereotyped on the music hall stage during the 19th Century, but the history of prejudice, hostility, and ignorance towards Black people has insured a unique longevity to the stereotypes. White America's conceptions of Black entertainers were shaped by minstrelsy's mocking caricatures and for over one hundred years the belief that Blacks were racially and socially inferior was fostered by legions of both white and black performers in Blackface.
Maybe Rihanna should have a look at the Blackface user guide before she proceeds next time.