“You can’t play your race card when discussing this issue. Bringing race into this matter will not get us anywhere. I am telling you now, it won’t be a constructive conversation.” John Doe said this to a woman of color while we were discussing the socio-economic effects of government programs in one of my undergraduate classes. He angrily slammed his hands on the table and began chugging his water. I imagined that he grabbed his water to cool himself down as if there was a fire inside of him that he needed to put out. Another classmate stated that our country was founded on racism and I stated, “these policies are supposedly ‘race-neutral,’ but are not. By not considering race, we are disregarding more than half the people in this country.” (I thought to myself: race is a part of everything in this country, ignoring it only makes it worse.) As silence ensued, my professor quickly turned to another portion of our assigned reading. However, I could not focus on anything else. I called my mother after the class and recalled the event to her. She said, “With each generation, things get better, but then you hear someone say something like that. It makes you think: are we better now?”
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.
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.