By Lori L. Tharps for

It’s 2012. Why are we still talking about blackface?


People dressed in blackface ride a float during the Zulu parade, a primarily African-American parade, during Mardi Gras festivities February 8, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mardi Gras is the last carnival celebration before the start of the Catholic holiday Lent, which begins February 9 on Ash Wednesday. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

It’s true there has never been an official ban on blackface put forth by our national government, but as Americans we’ve pretty much agreed that when white people smear their face with black make-up and paint their lips a cherry red in imitation of black people, it’s offensive.

In fact, since the 1960s, blackface has officially been placed on the list of taboo topics most people know to avoid like the plague. Of course, not everyone read the memo. Like Ted Danson in that infamous Friars Club fiasco back in 1993 or the boys in upstate New York last week — yes last week — who thought donning blackface would make for a funny skit at their high school while a re-enacting the Chris Brown-Rihanna domestic violence incident.

And then of course, there’s the rest of the world. Outside of the United States, blackface and sambo imagery is still all the rage.

national-racist-food-watermelon-soda.jpgFrom Mexico to South Africa, in Sweden and in Germany, it is not uncommon to find what we in the United States would consider racist images of black people being used on product labels and in advertising for everything from popsicles to chocolate candies. And then there are the countries where donning blackface is actually a regular part of the cultural experience.

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