Images of ‘Australian Icon’-themed party-goers from Victoria in blackface that surfaced on social media yesterday left many reeling, after realising that two white Australian men bravely chose to showcase Aboriginal Australians over other notable Australian Icons, like Steve Irwin, the Savage Garden duo, or a really big knife.
For a country that does its best to hide the fact that there were people who lived here before Captain Cook arrived, it’s inspiring that these two men took it upon themselves to remind us all of the original occupants of this land. As the host of the party put it, they really are ‘decent Australian blokes’.
Truly, as each lick of black paint was applied to their pasty skin, they must have remembered the millions of Indigenous people who’ve died since the colonisation of this country, and the thousands living through generations of stolen land, stolen children, and disproportionate rates of incarceration today. And as these brave revolutionaries easily scrubbed the paint off their bodies in their showers later that night, think of the mixture of relief and pain they must’ve felt, knowing that they no longer had to live in the skin that would’ve otherwise dictated their futures from then on, but saddened that the same could not be said for their fellow first citizens. Like every time I take off my pair of crocs and am instantly accepted by society again.
Australia is no stranger to this kind of remembrance of the struggle of non-white folk. Hey Hey It’s Saturday, Chris Lilley and Serena Williams fans have been doing it for years. And every time it happens, we all ask in unison what year it is, as if the march of time also means the collective population has joined the march for justice. But just as we forget to write ‘16’ instead of ‘15’ at the end our dates, it’s easy to forget the bigger issue at stake here, and that’s political correctness.
There are those who would take offence at the actions of these young leaders of a generation, who would say that their politics are incorrect. If we wanted politics to be correct, we wouldn’t have the Palmer United Party but that’s not the universe we’re forced to live in. Instead of asking for their politics to be correct, why not ask for their politics to be edgy, misguided, or just plain offensive? It seems to be working so well for the rest of Australia and hey, Tony Abbott still has a speaking tour so it can’t be all bad.
Alright, satire and dated references (and references to dates (yes I went there)) aside, it baffles me as to how anyone could think that dressing up in blackface could be a good idea. Using skin colour and cultural attire as a costume should have no place in our society, just like crocs. There are far more equally inoffensive and comfortable ways to live your life.
Seriously, apart from the tastelessness, blackface just seems so uncomfortable. I don’t understand the obsession that white people seem to have with completely covering themselves in opaque paint. Maybe you’re tired of seeing sunscreen disappear every time you have to slap it on so you thought you’d go for a darker shade, but honestly, it just seems like a skin-care nightmare. Think of all those clogged pores, people.
However, if you do find yourself still feeling the urge to completely cover yourself in black goo for an Australian-themed party, maybe consider going as Vegemite instead? Sure, it’ll also probably stir up some nasty emotions but at least the persecution of Vegemite-lovers out there doesn’t have nearly the same ugly history.
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