Saturday, April 17, 2010

About that Minstrel Show . . .

Before we launch into Cokesbury’s final party, the Minstrel Show, pause and ask yourself. Do you want to be associated with the likes of this:

I’m not sure I do. On the one hand, talking about minstrel shows in general may be taken as offensive by African Americans, and for good reason. It’s true as Wikipedia says, “Minstrel shows lampooned black people in mostly disparaging ways: as ignorant, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, joyous, and musical.” Blackface continued long after minstrel shows fell out of fashion, most notably in film and in “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” one of the most popular radio shows of the first half of the 20th century. The show – and I’ve listened to plenty of them – was pretty degrading and, as evidenced by protests against the show, not universally liked.

Now I couch this next phrase carefully: Degrading if you recall these are white men performing in black face, or degrading if you believe the stereotypes. Amos 'n' Andy are no more buffoonish, superstitious, lazy or musical than, say, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton of The Honeymooners, who got up to some pretty stupid lower-class antics as well, as I recall.

So that brings in the other hand, shying away from such subjects limits our ability to discuss race openly. If we’re to understand the hurt, we, as a nation, ought to understand the reason behind the hurt. Or result in failing to point out to the oversensitive that in entertainment as in life, stupidity, cupidity, racism and buffoonery knows no racial boundary.

And on that ubiquitous third hand, there’s also stuff like this:

So is “Hee-Haw” a covert way of white liberal guilt getting back at all those who think minstrelsy is so entertaining? After all – and I watched “Hee-Haw” a lot as a kid – the show makes white folks look ignorant, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, joyous, and musical. I don’t know the answer to that.

I do know Cokesbury’s introduction to the party isn’t promising:

A good way to have a delightful evening of fun and at the same time make some money is to put on a Minstrel Show. A Minstrel Show is a typically American type of entertainment, and to most people thoroughly enjoyable.
I’m not sure I want to have the Cokesbury Party Blog conclude on this note. If anyone out there in Blogland is reading, let me know what you think.


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