Innocent Halloween costume or blackface? - Macleans.ca

Innocent Halloween costume or blackface?

U of Toronto students who dressed up as “Jamaican Bobsled Team” spark contentious debate

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A townhall meeting was held at the University of Toronto last night to discuss a controversial Halloween costume choice that some have called “blackface.”

On October 29, a group of students dressed up as “The Jamaican Bobsled Team” for a Halloween pub night organized by three U of T colleges. Four men darkened their faces (and one lightened his face) to look like the characters from the movie Cool Runnings.

But some see the issue as more than just dress-up. The Black Students’ Association and the University of Toronto Students’ Union have criticized the costumes as insensitive and ignorant of historical context. David Topping of the Torontoist wrote, “We know Halloween is the time of year where you get to deviate a bit from what’s socially acceptable, but also it’s blackface.”

“Blackface” refers to a type of 19th century theatrical makeup used by white performers playing black characters. Blackface makeup, which can be traced back to the 1810s, exaggerated stereotypical features and proliferated racist attitudes and opinions.

Some U of T students don’t believe the Jamaican Bobsled Team costume was a manifestation of blackface. To them, it was “just a costume.” The U of T community is still abuzz with discussion.

Note: editorial to follow

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