A South Carolina Sheriff Captain, Melanie Thornburg, is under fire after donning blackface with a Bob Marley Halloween costume, according to Gaston Gazette. However, she claims “I didn’t do it out of disrespect and I apologize to anyone that took offense. I wouldn’t have ever tried to mock anyone.”
Thornburg stated that if she had known the history of blackface and how painting her skin black was going to offend people, she would have reconsidered her Halloween costume, which was a last minute decision. The Sheriff Captain stated that she was on her way to a party and was in dire need of a costume to throw on. She had already owned a dreaded wig and a t-shirt with a marijuana leaf printed on the front and thought to add black paint on her face to dress up as Bob Marley for Halloween.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) November 2, 2015
But little did the Sheriff know, blackface was popularized in the 1800’s when white actors would paint their faces black as a way of mocking African-Americans in a derogatory manner. When Thornburg discovered the meaning behind blackface, she gave her apology and her boss, Alan Cloninger, was satisfied with her apology and said: “As long as she didn’t do anything derogatory toward any person or race that was meant in a harmful or malicious way, that’s the way I look at it.”
Gaston NAACP President Chris Thomason stated that people shouldn’t “get too worked up over disrespectful Halloween costumes” and added that “Things that may have been offensive and looked at in a negative way, in today’s time may be more acceptable because, as people, we have evolved. We’ve learned to be a little more respectful and receptive of other people’s feelings.”
He went on to say that the debate was “insignificant and childish,” but he “empathize and sympathize with (those offended) and would hope that they could take a step back out of their self and realize that this is a holiday and there are going to be some costumes that may very well be offensive to individuals.”
“But tomorrow’s a new day, and let’s pull our boot straps up and focus on what matters.”
The blackface Bob Marley costume sparked social media outrage, and some are claiming that “Just because Bob Marley was black doesn’t mean she [Sheriff Melanie Thornburg] had to do blackface. Everyone would’ve understood the costume without it.”
One user commented on NY Daily News website, saying “Bob Marley was nowhere near that dark so she blew that. She looked more like Al Jolson singing Mammy.”
“There is no hall pass for people not understanding that wearing black face is offensive,” a social media user wrote.
Another person stated: “They should have to keep that black face on for a year and see how funny and harmless it is.”
That SC Sheriff didn’t look any more authentic as Bob Marley in blackface than if she kept the color of her White skin.
— Ebony SkyTalker (@sfreynolds) November 1, 2015
However, some people were shocked by the debate and couldn’t understand how something as simple painting your skin black could be an issue. One Twitter user wrote: “Stop being sensitive. If white guys dress up as Bob Marley, they’re supposed to have on black spray paint.”
The chairwoman at the philosophy department at UNC, Shannon Sullivan, stated that although blackface occurred centuries ago, it cannot be forgotten as it still reverberates today. “As a society, we tend to think that racism is over and the civil rights took care of that,” she said. “But blackface perpetuates stereotypes of back people that do funnel into society.”
Sullivan also stated that white people should be “mindful of their actions in regard to other races because regardless of intent, actions still have lasting effect.” She went to say that she want to “urge people, if I could, that it’s not really a matter of being politically correct or not. It’s a question of respect and who counts as a full person.”
[Image via Shutterstock]