Youtube Star DailyGrace Dons Blackface in New Video
Popular Youtube vlogger Grace Helbig, aka DailyGrace, made a video this past week called “Halloween Costume Ideas.” In it, she made her usual variety of jokes: funny, based in pop culture, and with a heavy dose of sarcasm. But at the end of the video, she went too far.
“You’re gonna find some kind of really platinum blonde or light pink wing. Then you’re gonna tan your skin as much as you can– unless your skin’s already tan; then you did it!” She then applies a heavy layer of brozer and self-tanner, making her skin several shades darker than it naturally is. She continues.
“Then you’re gonna find some really light bubblegum pink lipstick. Put that on. Then you’re gonna find some kind of eyeshadow or makeup that you can put on your neck that looks like you have a hickey. What are you?”
Grace finally reveals the punchline we’ve all been dreading the whole time.
“I’m Hickey Minaj! Like the singer? But instead of Nicki, she’s got a hickey…this might be offensive.”
She then looks straight at the camera, smiles broadly, winces, and cheerily says, “Yep!” Well, you may not be taking it seriously, but you’re right on that one, Grace. It is offensive. It’s incredibly fucking offensive.
Blackface has its origins in mistrel shows from the mid- to late-nineteenth century. If you remember your grade school history, this was not a great time to be a black person in America. Slavery was still very much supported, African Americans couldn’t vote, and the general public perception was that white people were inherently superior. Thus minstrel shows depicted black people as foolish characters. They spoke in broken English or dialects, performed clownish physical comedy, and were almost always white actors wearing a layer of black grease paint. The characters were always extremely exaggerated versions of the worst racial stereotypes you can think of, and many of the tropes that got their start in minstrel shows were carried on to vaudeville, television, and film.
Think we’ve moved beyond that now? Think again. The wise old overweight black woman who dispenses wisdom and always has something good to eat besides? Got its start with blackface. The arrogant, intimidating black man who preys on white women? Yep, blackface. And of course just plain racism alone is never fun– there was also a hefty dose of sexism and slut shaming to go with it as well, with young women of color being portrayed as extremely sexualized and tempting to innocent, upstanding white men.
Mark Sawyer of CNN described blackface as such:
The blackface itself by whites reduces them to one critical feature: their black skin. And in almost every case, even this one, it’s exaggerated. None of the Jacksons are that dark; it is a rank racial caricature. It always has been…Even in the early days of blackface minstrelsy, those who practiced it did not see themselves as promoting pernicious racial stereotypes and hatred but…honoring fun aspects of African-American culture and being. No one then or now who uses blackface cops to saying, “I intend to dehumanize black people.” Everyone has an excuse or an alternative explanation of what it means….They also all know it is offensive but think it isn’t so offensive that they can’t get away with it. They just can’t resist race and blackness as the vehicle for comedy.
The first actual black person wasn’t even allowed to perform in a mistrel show until 1838, and even he had to wear blackface. This seems illogical, but let me break it down for you in case Sawyer’s quotation didn’t: blackface isn’t stage makeup, and it isn’t about character accuracy; it’s about dehumanizing and degrading people of color.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s an okay thing to do, and I definitely don’t think that people should be profiting off it it. It’s a good thing Grace isn’t paid by a parent company, MyDamnChannel, to make her videos as well as earning money from monetizing them on Youtube.
Oh, wait. She is.
If you think that Grace Helbig and MyDamnChannel shouldn’t make money out of blatantly racist behavior, let them know. I’ve created this petition that I would really appreciate if you would sign. From the comments on her video and the responses to it, it doesn’t seem like anyone has called her out about this yet, and that’s– if possible– even more disturbing than the fact that she thought it was funny or cute or even acceptable to do this. When I contacted MyDamnChannel directly, their publicist responded, saying that the video “was created for comedic effect with absolutely no intention of ill will directed at anyone. I replied explaining that just because something is not intentionally racist doesn’t excuse it for being racist, and it doesn’t make it okay, but he appears to have disregarded my email.If we don’t respond, we’re telling Grace and her employers that they’re right. That we think people of color are allowed to be used as props and punchlines by white women (and yes, this is coming from a white woman and I’m not the oppressed group– but I couldn’t let this go by unnoticed) just to get a cheap laugh and make a buck. That a history of systematic oppression and prejudice doesn’t matter when there’s an opportunity to make a pun. That people of color don’t deserve to be seen as people. No thank you, Grace. I’ll be looking elsewhere for my Halloween inspiration.
Do you find this racist? Sign the petition here! And share your thoughts in the comments below.
Written by Marlena Carcone
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