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Cabalgata in blackfaceI was reading a post of my blogger friend and also adoptive mom Silvana (in Spanish) that made me remember things I saw when I was living in Spain. 
In that country, as well as in many Spanish speaking countries, there is an important holiday called “Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos” that celebrates the Three Wise Men or Three Kings, bringing gifts for Jesus after he was born. In Christian tradition this is known as Epiphany.
This day is celebrated by bringing gifts to the children during the night on January 6th. In many parts of Spain there are also parades in which the men dressed as the Three Wise Men riding on horses and camels give candies to the children and pick up the letters with their whishes (Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos) similar to what here in the US is writing a letter to Santa.
According to the tradition, the Three Kings come from the East and their names are Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, being the last one of African origins, probably from Ethiopia, and of course black.
Balthazar blackface This parade has been going on for years and one of the most shocking things is that usually the black king is represented by a white man in blackface.
It’s kind of hard to believe that there are still people who doesn’t know that a white man with his face painted in black is one of the most insulting and racist things for black people (and non black people too). It’s also hard to believe that there are no black men in Spain that can play the role of Balthazar. I’m not against this tradition, but I find this way of representing it quite disgusting and a form of perpetuating a racist stereotype.
For those who don’t know anything about it, this way of representing black people is called minstrel. It was a form of entertainment during the 19th century in which a group of white actors played the part of black men painted in blackface for the enjoyment of the also white crowd. Black people were portrayed as lazy, Page-boys in blackface during the paradesuperstitious, coward, and lascivious. Over time, this kind of “entertainment” ended but we still see nowadays, episodes of blackface in the news.
Usually white people tend to dismiss the importance of blackface by saying that it’s just for fun without the intention to offend anyone.
But the fact is that blackface IS offensive and it should stop, no matter how innocent might seem to white people.
It’s also hurting black children that live in these mainly white communities. What might they be thinking or feeling while witnessing this parade?


Blackface.com

Black like you
Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture (book) by John Strausbaugh
bamb
Bamboozled (DVD) Directed by Spike Lee

A few recent episodes of Blackface in the news:
Blackface incident continues to cause consternation for some in community
Incident spurs blackface discussion
‘America’s Next Top Model’ Puts Models In Blackface
French Vogue Shoots Lara Stone in Blackface for This Month’s Supermodel Issue

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