Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Julie Myers, blackface, Halloween, and me

Julie Myers, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has gotten in a wee spot of trouble for giving a costume award to a Halloween guest at her party whose costume entailed a striped prison outfit, dredlocks and blackface. (The award was for "originality.")

I had a weird and legitimately ironic encounter with the THE SAME GUY! (Or another guy in an identical costume.) We attended a friend's Halloween/birthday party at the Mansion on O Street, a bizarre bed & breakfast/restaurant/club apparently decorated by somebody's crazy/fabulous aunt, which featured a Halloween buffet dinner involving lots and lots of olives, a make-your-own PB&J stand, and zillions of cakes. I wore a costume consisting of my wedding dress, my pink fake-fur hat with ear flaps, and stamps and mailing labels affixed to my person, hence: Russian mail-order bride. (Pretty good given that I came up with it at midnight the night before, no?)

As we were about to leave, this very tall guy in a striped prison costume approached me and said his friends wanted to see my costume. I went and talked to his friends, who had accents of some Russian/Eastern European type, so I got nervous and kind of apologetic about the "Russian" element of my costume, and said I hoped it was not offensive. I was apparently so nervous that I did not notice that the GUY WHO HAD APPROACHED ME WAS IN BLACKFACE. Mr. T&A pointed it out to me after the fact.

Is it reasonable to think that this is the same guy? Or is it more likely that multiple people chose to wear blackface, dreadlocks and a prison outfit to Halloween parties in DC? What are the chances that I should apologize to a dude in blackface for the potential offensiveness of MY Halloween costume?

Update: A friend found the above picture showing the guy in question in the background. When Mr. T&A asked our friends if anybody remembered the guy in blackface at the party, everyone did, so it seems that my not noticing was aberrational. Also, in my defense, I am pretty sure I would have noticed if I had been, for instance, examining his costume so as to judge it.


Mr. T&A said...

Let's be clear about this. If any of you have been to the Mansion at O Street, you know it is a really, really weird place. It's an expansive B&B/restaurant/fun house that is filled to the ceiling with bizarre antiques, chachka, and junk.

And still, when I walked into this place and took in the surroundings, the first thing that jumped out at me as being blatantly wrong was the dude in blackface.

I'm guessing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement costume party must have been a work function, because we saw him around dinner time. So if anyone said anything to him at the work party... say, something along the lines of "Hey, guy-who-works-at-a-federal-agency-that-deals-with-detaining-immigrants, maybe it's not cool for you to be wearing blackface, dreadlocks, and a prison uniform," it must not have fazed him, because he stayed in costume the rest of the night.

Methinks no one at ICE said anything about until the photos were maybe passed around the office and someone who wasn't in attendance said, "Maybe it would be prudent to delete that one with la jefa and the guy in blackface, given that her confirmation isn't yet a done deal...."

Anonymous said...

Blackface is ALWAYS racist when wore by white people, the ORIGINAL intent of blackface was to mock and demonize African-Americans, when it is done TODAY, it still conjures up memories of the original purpose. That is the reason why Ted Danson got into trouble back in 1991. It is the same as going to a party dressed as Adolf Hitler.

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