Culture February 21, 2017
A student at Spring Arbor University has caused controversy this week with a Snapchat photo that appeared to use blackface.
The anonymous student at the Christian school in Michigan captioned her photo with the words, “HMU if you need ya cotton picked.”
The student in the Snapchat photo, who has been disciplined, appears to be wearing a charcoal face mask, something Self has reported to be “the biggest skincare trend on Pinterest in 2017.”
Activated charcoal is said to act as a vacuum for dirt and oils, with the small amount in charcoal masks meant to clear pores and tighten the skin. It is also black, and when applied to white skin can look alarmingly like the blackface popularized by Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice in the 1830s.
Performances using blackface were horribly offensive, mocking black people with damaging stereotypes that have persisted long after the shows ended. Of course, it never really ended, with the heinous tradition often rearing its ugly head around Halloween.
A new rash of racist Snapchat photos seem to be the unwelcome – and hopefully unexpected – side effect of the rising trend of charcoal and clay face masks. Earlier this month a white University of South Carolina student seemed to be wearing a similar mask as she posted a “joke” for Black History Month on Snapchat.
She shared a selfie of herself in what looked to be blackface – and was likely another mask – while using a “young, black & proud” Snapchat filter created in honor of Black History Month.
A fellow student shared the offensive photo on Facebook, writing, “THIS is why it’s important and absolutely NECESSARY to celebrate black History Month. It is a celebration of all of the accomplishments and the struggles we have overcome to better ourselves in this world. However, ignorance is still existent. This girl is an EMBARRASSMENT and I hope the university deals with her accordingly.”
And back in September, Kansas State University student Paige Shoemaker found herself in hot water after sharing a similar selfie on Snapchat, which she captioned, “Feels good to finally be a n—a.”
After the incident, Shoemaker told Fusion that she had been wearing a L’Oreal clay facial mask in the shot that she had carelessly shared to her public Snapchat story – meaning any of her followers could see it.
“It was sent in a joking manner to our friends. I am the least racist and most accepting person you will meet. Never would I send it in a derogatory way,” she told the publication. She has since been expelled from her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, and subsequently the university.
It seems that a lot of white people can’t help but be racist while wearing these charcoal and clay face masks. Four students at University of North Dakota committed the same offense, posing in masks alongside the caption, “Black lives matter.”
Skincare benefits aside, the growing number of racist Snapchat photos featuring the charcoal mask seem to be overshadowing the skincare trend itself. So does that make charcoal masks racist?
Of course not. FOMO of a new beauty trend or the desire for firmer skin and fewer blackheads does not inherently make you a racist. But if you feel compelled to make a racist joke whenever you wear a charcoal mask, well, that’s a different story.
Spring Arbor University grad Christina Golden called out this horrifying new trend on Facebook, posting, “What troubles me the most is that this is not the first racist encounter that has happened at SAU. What troubles me even more is that when things like this happen, little is done about these incidents… This is wrong and hurtful. And should not be taken lightly.”
So while it is okay to clear out your pores with a trendy, new charcoal mask – maybe don’t post a picture of it? And definitely don’t caption said ill-advised selfie with a racist “joke” that makes light of a time of so much suffering and injustice.
After so many public condemnations of blackface, such as Julianne Hough’s insensitive Halloween costume, it’s pretty hard to feign ignorance at this point. But apparently some people still haven’t learned, so we’ll lay it out for you.
Do not wear blackface. It is offensive and by all accounts, not okay. Just don’t do it.
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