Last night, the Phoenix Coyotes’ Paul Bissonnette (you know, this guy) posted pictures from his team’s Halloween party. Here he is, along with (of course) the young lady who accompanied him. The picture that’s getting more attention, though, is one of teamate Raffi Torres and his wife. Torres was Jay-Z, his wife Beyonce. Here’s how they looked:
For reference, here’s what Torres looks like normally. As you can see above, Torres looks, well, pretty ridiculous in that costume. Predictably, many were up in arms, and Bissonnette responded to those criticisms by noting that Torres is actually a big fan of Jay-Z. We don’t doubt he is.
But that’s the thing with blackface: there’s a history there, and no matter how benign intentions may be, it’s hard to see blackface and not think of…that. And yes, there have been instances of blackface in popular culture actually working, but there’s a difference between a movie where the blackface can actually be used as part of a larger point, and…some guy’s costume.
As for the “Dwyane Wade in whiteface” defense, again, there’s that whole “historical context” problem. Not that we were huge fans of that costume, but that’s just because it was creepy. Actually being offended by the Timberlake getup would be just about the most shameless possible victim-card-playing, and we don’t think many people were offended.
And it’s not so much about being offended, anyway: Bomani Jones, not a fan of Torres’ outfit, said he wasn’t even really offended by it, instead slamming “the arrogance of his defenders.” What we think that’s getting at is this: hey, we’re sure Torres isn’t a bad guy or anything, and that he meant no harm. However, due to the history of blackface that we mentioned earlier, it was inevitable it would be seen as “ill-advised.” And refusal to see or acknowledge why it would be seen as ill-advised just seems like annoyance at having to bother with pesky racial sensitivity because it would be easier not to.
And again, that attitude doesn’t apply to Torres directly – Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy notes Torres has dealt with nonsense himself, having Mexican and Peruvian ancestry. But blackface – unless, again, it’s part of something bigger, which as Halloween costume, it pretty much can’t be – just seems destined to cause an uproar, and not for no reason. Personally, we wish that instead Torres took a cue from his name and went as children’s entertainer Raffi. He could have even brought this. Good luck finding someone who would have been offended by that.