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Politicians and Blackface

Recently, Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel resigned after photos of him dressed in blackface as a Hurricane Katrina victim surfaced. Ertel was appointed as Florida Secretary of State by first-term governor Ron DeSantis. Governor DeSantis, a Republican, defeated Andrew Gillum – the first African American democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida – last November in the election. Ironically, (perhaps not), DeSantis is the same man who told Floridians just days before the election: “the last thing we need to do is monkey this up…” This was a clear reference to Mr. Gillum’s race, and a message to Floridians not to elect the state’s first Black governor. Apparently, Governor DeSantis’s Secretary of State shared some of the same racial sentiments as the man who appointed him. 

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Image from Orlando Weekly

Blackface was one of the most notable features of minstrelsy. What, ironically, started off as African American slaves mimicking slave masters and owners turned into white people putting burnt cork or shoe polish on their faces and acting as Black caricatures.

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Image from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture

Minstrel shows began in the early 19th century and portrayed Black people as lazy, dishonest, water-melon-eating slaves who were inherently less intelligent than white people. Minstrel shows had an everlasting, detrimental effect on the image of Black people. When white people don blackface now, it reinforces the negative stereotypes about Black people.

 

Mr. Ertel has since apologized for his actions.

It appears, however, that blackface is a bipartisan problem.  A photo has surfaced of Democratic Virginia governor Ralph Northam in either blackface or a KKK costume.  Though Governor Northam has tried to do damage control, his narrative keeps changing – is it him in the photo or not?  And if he is in the photo, how does he not remember whether he’s the guy in blackface or the KKK costume?  During 2019’s most bizarre press conference to date, Governor Northam tried to explain that he wasn’t the one in blackface because he did blackface another time, when he dressed up as Michael Jackson.  When asked whether he could moonwalk by a reporter (really? is this a journalistic question?), the only thing that stopped him from busting out was the good sense of his wife, Pam Northam.  And while most of his fellow Democrats are calling on him to resign, he so far has refused to do so.  Part of the problem might be that Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault, though he denies the allegation.  Looks like #MeToo is a bipartisan problem, too.

History Being Made in the 2020 Race for President

We’re two years away from the Presidential Primary and the Democratic race is already one of the most diverse in American history. There are candidates representing women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. Already, there is a record number of women running for President. Additionally, an African American man, a Latin American man, and a gay man are all running. Here is a list of the some of the candidates who have entered the race so far.

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Image from Vox

Corey Booker – an African American U.S. Senator from New Jersey advocating for equality and criminal justice reform.

Elizabeth Warren – a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts running on anti-corruption both on Wall Street and in politics.

Julián Castro – former mayor of San Antonio, and secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama. Mr. Castro is running a progressive campaign focused on many things, such as educational opportunity, racial equality, and immigration reform.

Kamala Harris – an African American woman with Jamaican and Indian roots. Ms. Harris was the first African American district attorney in San Francisco, and the first African American Attorney General of California. She is fighting “for the people,” hoping to reform the criminal justice system and improve the plight of middle class Americans.

Kirsten Gillibrand – a self-proclaimed “young mother” and U.S. Senator from New York. Mrs. Gillibrand, who has put her motherhood at the center of her campaign, is focused on the health care, education, and job training.

Pete Buttigieg – an Afghanistan war veteran, current naval reservist, and current mayor of South Bend, IN. “Mayor Pete,” who is also gay, is running on freedom, democracy, and security.

Tulsi Gabbard – a woman and Iraqi war veteran who represents Hawaii in the U.S. House. Mrs. Gabbard’s main campaign message is unity.

 

Reigning NBA Champions Visit President Obama

Speaking of presidents, who else misses President Obama?? The NBA’s Golden State Warriors sure do. The reigning NBA champs recently paid a visit to our beloved 44th President in his new D.C. office. Many may view this as a snub to 45, as it’s been a custom since the 1980s for championship teams to visit the White House. Since 45 has been in office, the custom has become controversial.

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Image from Rolling Stone

Fortunately for Mr. Trump, he’ll likely receive a visit from his good-old pal, Tom Brady and the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.

 

“MAGA Country”

In light of the political discussions above, it’s only right to end with a story evoking a socio-political sentiment. Recently, actor and singer Jussie Smollett was attacked in Chicago by two men. Smollett, who is openly gay and plays a gay character in the TV series, “Empire,” alleges that the men called him racial and homophobic slurs. The men also put a noose around his neck, beat him, and poured bleach on him. Before the men left, they told Smollett, “this is MAGA Country.” The incident is being treated as a possible hate crime.

This is yet another sign of how the president’s rhetoric has divided the country and caused an increase in the number of hate crimes. In particular, studies show that attacks against the Black, Jewish, gay, and Latino communities have increased.

 

Author: johnniefitz

Johnnie Fitzpatrick is a second-year student at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He is a member of UC Law's Black Law Students Association, Trial Advocacy Team, and Moot Court Board. His interests include national politics, improving American race relations, and the economic empowerment and educational advancement of the African American community.

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