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When to Wear Blackface for Halloween

By The Second City | Oct 31, 2013

Julianne Hough dressing as “Crazy Eyes” from Orange is the New Black.

Those jackholes from Facebook who dressed as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.

These costume choices bring up an important question: When is it appropriate to wear blackface for Halloween?

This is a very easy question to answer:


It’s that simple. Don’t do it. Blackface was used in minstrel shows as early as the 19th century to depict the stereotypical happy-go-lucky “darky” having a good old time picking cotton. It’s offensive, and the sting of slavery and lynching are forever attached to it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Does this mean I can’t dress as my favorite black celebrity, athlete or politician? Not at all! Please feel free to put on your Kanye, Nicki Minaj, Derrick Rose or Al Sharpton costumes– just don’t put on blackface.

If you need ideas on how to pull off the look, here are a few suggestions:

Derrick Rose: 

Buy a Bulls jersey with the name “Rose” on the back. Wow, it’s so simple!

Barack Obama:

Wear a suit with an American flag pin on the lapel and a set of big ears and just go “uuuuhhhh” a lot. Boom. Yes, you can! Just without blackface.

Kanye West:

Wear those glasses that look like blinds and be an asshole. Easy!

Janelle Monae:

Do your hair in a pompadour, get some skinny pants and a black bow tie, then drop some dope-ass beats. Seriously, her album is the best.

Your Favorite Black Female Cast Member on SNL:

That’s tougher; you’ll need invisible spray, which hasn’t been invented yet.

All in all, everyone has a “signature look” that makes it easy for people to know who you’re dressed up as, and you don’t need to put on blackface to do it. Hey, I’ve dressed as Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Brown and Seinfeld– and never needed to wear whiteface to do it.

So happy costuming everybody, and I’ll see you at the party!

Patrick Rowland is a writer and comedian in Chicago. He is an understudy for the Second City Mainstage revue “Let Them Eat Chaos” and performs  with Next, an Official Second City Training Center House Ensemble, every Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.  in the de Maat Studio Theatre.

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