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It's that time of year again: Halloween isn't a valid excuse for wearing blackface

Megyn Kelly’s comments about blackface were a little infuriating.

Vladimir Putin in Megyn Kelly Television Interview Source: Michael Klimentyev

SOMEHOW, IT’S 2018 and there are still people out there who believe that blackface is up for debate. 

Former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was the latest (and hopefully the last) public figure who attempted to make excuses for the practice of wearing blackface. On yesterday’s episode of the NBC show ‘Megyn Kelly Today’, the 47-year-old asked, “What is racist?” 

You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was okay, just as long as you were dressing as a character. 

CNN responded to the segment by pointing out the fact that in the 47 years that Megyn Kelly has been alive, there was never a time in the United States when blackface was deemed acceptable. 

They were all white people on that panel. There were no African Americans, no people of colour to say, “Hey, Megyn. Not cool.” I wonder how much diversity she has in her staff, I don’t know, I’m not there, but I would imagine not a lot because people would have informed her. 

Comedian Patton Oswalt also added that there’s no reason why she should have nostalgia for the simple old days, before PC culture “destroyed” blackface. He wrote on Twitter, “Dear Megyn Kelly — you and I are approximately the same age. Blackface was NOT okay when we were kids. Take it from a big-hearted boy who just wanted to show his love for Nispey Russell on the worst Halloween of my life.” 

Even a 1984 episode of the American sitcom Gimme a Break! managed to take a very clear stance on the issue of blackface. Pop culture towards the end of the 20th century was not completely ignorant of the fact that blackface was (and is) offensive. In Gimme a Break!, Nell Harper compared it to using the N-word. 

That’s what you did by putting Joey in blackface. You offended me, and a lot of decent black people. 

Source: Alex Cranz/YouTube

After all of the backlash, Megyn Kelly decided to apologise for her comments. 

She emailed her colleagues:

Today is one of those days where listening carefully to other points of view, including from friends and colleagues, is leading me to rethink my own views. 

“Those” kind of days shouldn’t really be a rare occurrence… 

I’ve never been a ‘pc’ kind of person — but I understand that we do need to be more sensitive in this day and age. Particularly on race and ethnicity issues which, far from being healed, have been exacerbated in our politics over the past year. This is a time for more understanding, love, sensitivity and honour, and I want to be a part of that. I look forward to continuing that discussion. 

When Megyn Kelly returned to her TV show this morning, she apologised once again:

I want to begin with two words, I’m sorry. The country feels so divided and I have no wish to add to that pain and offense. I believe this is a time for more understanding, more love, more sensitivity and honour… Thank you for listening and for helping me listen too.

Incredibly, this was met with a standing ovation…

Needless to say, viewers were very surprised at the way the audience reacted to Megyn’s apology. One person tweeted, “She is an extremely well-educated woman who worked at Fox News for many years, where they covered the issue repeatedly (to gin up outrage over “PC culture”). There’s no way she was ignorant of the reasons why blackface is upsetting.” 

If, after sitting through decades of public discussion on the topic of why blackface is racist, you are still unsure what the big deal is then you’re probably willfully ignorant. If you are sincerely interested in trying to understand why blackface is wrong, there are literally hundreds of explanations online

In fact, blackface isn’t the only costume idea that you might have that’s off limits.

This year, people with disabilities have been speaking out on social media about the harm and stigma that is caused by individuals who dress up as disabled people for Halloween. Teen Vogue spoke to Youtuber Annie Segarra, who said that “Disability is not something we can just take on and off. Attempting to use it as a prop is a mockery of the privilege one has in order to do such a thing.” 

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Kelly Earley

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