A Hairy Hand, Blackface, and a Stolen Blessing~ Genesis 27: 21-29 34-35
Sometimes events must be addressed in the moment. This week is one of those times. The reading tells the story of Jacob and his brother, Esau. Isaac was old and dying. He wanted to give his blessing to Esau but Jacob tricked Isaac into giving it to him. Deceit runs deep in the human character. Jacob used animal skin to give him hairy hands. Today, we have blackface. Blackface provided something our culture wanted but did not want to really see. In these enlightened times, many are shocked that people still wear blackface. Blackface began in the 1840’s . It was a way for white folks, especially in the North, to become accustomed to blacks while appropriating their culture and enjoying the entertainment. Since real black entertainers were not tolerated, white actors wearing blackface used exaggerated stereotypes to portray them. There were two types of stereotypes, the farmhand who was happy and content and the urban black who was unhappy and miserable. It reinforced the idea that slavery was good for both whites and blacks. These stereotypes still surface today, the Tom, the Mammy, the Coon. It is not about just art but about an entire culture. It is the intolerance of blacks in white spaces. It is the use of blackface to tell whites and blacks that black oppression is OK and everything is fine. Luckily, things changed. As society changed, blacks moved into white spaces. They showed their talent. Blackface is no longer tolerated.