What is so funny about white people putting black shoe polish on their faces and pretending to be uneducated and buffoonish black people. I wonder does nobody in Quebec from students to comedians understand the historical offensiveness associated with Black Face? When you are sitting there in your seats laughing at someone demeaning black people by presenting them in a negative way, what do you think that it makes you? My God we live in a society where Fagin in the movie Oliver Twist has been considered by Jews as defamatory and insulting, because the fictional character is portraying Jews in a negative light, (penny-pinching, miserly crooks) and as a people who would go as far as to take advantage of homeless children to enrich themselves and yet how many of those same Jewish people who get so offended by the image of Fagin, go to these Black Face comedy shows and laugh the night away. I understand the right to freedom of expression, especially when it comes to expressing oneself about the tragedies that have befallen black people historically, but Blackface, boot blacking, “Really”?
I have sat through a few of these shows and I can tell you this, I found them hurtful, tasteless, racist and not one bit funny. What I do not understand is that there is still in this day and age an audience for this type of thing in Quebec, especially in Montreal. That people still find this type of racism funny enough to go and see and pay money for, leaves me to conclude, that enough people in the province of Quebec do not get it, or that they get it and do not give a damn about the feelings of the black people they are making fun of. I can not believe that a people such as the French in the province of Quebec, who are so sensitive to anything that takes away from their culture, such as the mere sound of the English language being spoken in public, or seeing the historically correct re-enactment of their loss to the English on the Plains of Abraham,(The Battle For Quebec) could not, or would not see that putting on these types of insensitive demonstrations of attempted humor are unwelcome in the black community, are found to be demeaning and hurtful, as well as insensitive to the long unending suffering of black people and that offense is taken every time they act this way.
It would seem that Black Face has also become the mask under which the white French students of Quebec have chosen at times to hide behind when they demonstrate and though I am lost to understand why they have chosen Black Face, I know that I instinctively do not like the habit. What is it that they are trying to say when they put on the black shoe polish that I am missing? Are they shouting out to the government saying, “We are not blacks and we will not be treated like blacks”? Are they saying, “We refuse to be treated like n**g*rs we are demanding to be listened to and treated with more respect and consideration than n**g*rs? I only ask , because I am trying to understand the symbolic significance of the act of boot blacking once face to protest, if not to draw notice to an unacceptable treatment and injustice that is unworthy of your social standing or status.
Then we had the students of the HEC Montreal putting on Black Face and acting inappropriately at a sporting event (HEC Black Face Incident) HEC Montreal is a university business school whose reputation as a leader in teaching and research is recognized in Québec, Canada, and around the world. In other words these are students who will, or hope they will be in charge of hiring and firing and setting policies and rules in the business world and this is how they are behaving and what they see no problem in doing. It was at this point that the powers that be decided to get the positive out of this incident and not punish anyone, but give these bigots a little sensitivity training and instruction and perhaps how better to not act out and draw unwanted attention to the racist secrets in the provinces closet, where the African Slave Trade secret is safely hidden.
As Nydia Dauphin says in her post, posted on 05/16/2013 3:07 pm, “Wait, let me stop you before you pull the ignorance card to defend this racist practice. This ignorance card is too easily played in Quebec. Instances of racism under the guise of comedy have struck far too many times. In 2008, again on Radio-Canada, we heard a “comedian” make this “joke” about the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the USA: “We (Americans) are not racist, having a n***** in the White House will do us some good, Black on White is easier to shoot!” Can you imagine hearing this anywhere else in the world? On a national, public broadcaster?! Even Fox wouldn’t have aired it!”
In case you missed the sensitivity training course and lectures, below is a brief history of African Slavery as it pertains to Quebec and Quebec’s involvement in the African Slave Trade. This is not the heroically portrayed stories of your heroes like, Champlain, Montcalm, Radisson, or Jacques Cartier and neither is this the story of the Underground Railway that has Canada a hero to the fleeing slaves of the evil USA; this is the part of Canadian / Quebec history that is not in the history books used in Canadian or Quebec schools and is not part of the learning in either Canada’s, or Quebec’s curriculum. Once you have read the history ask yourself, “Is aping the tragedy that was slavery and the lack of education black people received and the wariness that this type of oppression forced black people to exhibit in their every action, really where you want to find your comic relief citizens of Quebec? Is mocking and making light of the indignity that was imposed on a race of people by your forefathers really where you want to find your comic relief, citizens of Quebec?
Quebec has a long history of racism where blacks are concerned dating back to a time Where king Louis the 14th gave his royal assent to the importing of slaves into French colonies of France for the purpose of providing servants, field workers and to aid in the building of structures and clearing land. This enabled the colony of New France (Quebec) to enter the African Slave Trade. One only has to look to the results of the investigations into the multiple, “accidental” killings of young black men by police over the years in Montreal, blamed on guns going off accidentally, or while handcuffed in custody and being transported by police from one station to another, to understand that Quebec still does not put a high value on it black populations rights. Do you remember the Montreal police chief that explained that the majority of his police officers held some degree of racial fear of blacks, or dislike of blacks, but said that they were professional enough not to bring that prejudice, or bias on the job with them? Were you one of the few that despite all the evidence to the contrary believed him?
What I am saying is that the mistreatment of black people in Quebec and the denying of black people basic human rights granted to others by law is nothing new in Quebec. This practice is as much a part of French culture as Catholicism and the French language. In fact it was law that all of the slaves had to be converted into Catholics and not Protestants. the fact that Quebec had its very own Code Noir,(Code For Blacks) explains a lot. Like Quebec’s insistence on naming metro stations after known racists and honoring them with public statues. Quebec would be hard pressed given its involvement in the slave trade to find a historical hero from its past that was not a racist when it came to black people. I contend that it is not such a surprise once one debunks the myth that Canada and the distinct province of Quebec did not engage in the African slave trade that some citizens of Quebec could find humor in the use of Black Face by their comedians and young French students. I guess with the secret exposed of Canada’s and Quebec’s, participation in the African slave trade, combined with the total removal of the facts of this participation from our taught history and the lack of any apology from either government, it is not that hard to understand the total disregard for the people they are hurting and making fun of by some Quebecers with their continued use of Black Face.
In case you do not know what the Code Noir was, in simple terms, “The Code Noir defined the conditions of slavery in the French colonial empire, restricted the activities of free Negroes, forbade the exercise of any religion other than Roman Catholicism and ordered all Jews out of France’s colonies. The Code Noir also gave plantation owners extreme disciplinary power over their slaves, including legitimizing corporal punishment as a method of maintaining control.” The code has been described by Tyler Stovall as “one of the most extensive official documents on race, slavery, and freedom ever drawn up in Europe.”