Blackface is back for Halloween in 2014, apparently, and this year the unfortunate trend of white people darkening their skin as they pretend to be black has been combined with Halloween partygoers making light of domestic violence, based on new examples of revelers dressing up as Ray Rice.
Rice, the former star Baltimore Ravens running back, was suspended “indefinitely” from the National Football League in September after video emerged showing Rice knocking his then-fiancee (now wife) Janay Palmer unconscious with a single punch in an Atlantic City hotel elevator.
But to at least one couple, the incident was cause for Halloween merriment, and because Rice and Palmer are both African American, the white couple donned blackface to complete the effect. Their photo was posted on Instagram by the couple’s own son, Zac Ritter.
After a barrage of hostile reactions, Ritter deleted the photo and then appeared to delete this entire Instagram account. But as so often happens, the photo and account were not deleted fast enough to stop the pic of the young man’s blackface parents from going viral.
don’t let this be you. seriously. don’t let this be you. pic.twitter.com/y0gitqbRqe
— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) October 26, 2014
The photo reached ESPN commentator Keith Olbermann, who himself took to Twitter to condemn the attempt at blackface humor, which also appeared to make fun of domestic violence victims, with the woman in the photograph not only wearing blackface, but also sporting a painted-on black eye while grinning happily. Olbermann even responded directly to a tweet from Ritter, defending his parents costume.
No; It’s racist, mocks DV victims RT @RitterZac So this is Halloween.. like I’m pretty sure it’s called dressing up. It’s all a joke
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) October 26, 2014
Ritter himself found the costume hilarious, apparently, captioning the Instagram photo, “So my mom and dad win the best Halloween costume ever.”
He then added the hashtags, #hitabitch, #illtaketheelevator and #shewasknockedupnowshesknockedout.
But the parents of Zac Ritter were not the first Halloween costume mocking the Ray Rice incident to turn up online. The “Too Soon” forum on the popular internet message board Reddit featured a photo of a man dressed as Rice, with a dark-skinned mannequin on the floor taking the place of the fallen Janay Palmer, though the man does not appear to be wearing blackface in this photo:
The Reddit posting drew a mix of responses, with one example stating, “This is disgusting. What part of a woman being knocked out unconscious is funny/appropriate for Halloween? Stop.”
But another clearly approved of the “joke,” chiming in with, “But how can I pull off Blackface, become unemployed, and shrink 3 inches?”
Finally, here is an Instagram photo of a young boy dressed as Ray Rice, apparently in with blackface makeup, carrying a doll representing a battered woman. The individual who posted this photo also seems to believe it is the “greatest costume ever.”
While it’s impossible to know how long white people have been dressing in blackface, the internet has allowed photos of blackface costumes to be disseminated worldwide. In 2012 and 2013, numerous costumes, such as some with white partygoers dressing as slain black teenager Trayvon Martin, created controversy online and in the media.