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October 23, 2019

Don’t Do Blackface, Ever

Hey, Bonita…

Bonita,

My boyfriend and I are doing a couples costume this year for Halloween. He’s done it several times before with girlfriends and regular friends, but this will be my first time, and I’m super excited. We decided we’d be Rick and Michonne from “The Walking Dead,” and we’re almost done putting our costumes together. One thing is bothering me, though. My boyfriend keeps making jokes about me using body paint and face paint to match my skin tone to the character. (We’re white.) Or, at least, I think he’s joking? The first time he said it, I just laughed out loud and moved on, but he keeps making the joke and asking if I “bought my blackface yet,” and I’m starting to think he might be serious. 

There is no way I’m gonna do blackface, ever. He knows that I genuinely find it to be offensive, but he responds like “people are too sensitive” when I try to get serious about it. I don’t want this to turn into some argument about principles, but he can really browbeat me sometimes for the fun of it, and I’m not trying to do this over a stupid Halloween costume. How can I definitely let my guy know that any sort of racial mockery is off the table for our couples costume?

Reluctant Zombie Killer

Hey there, RZK,

You can tell him exactly how you told me: “Sorry boo, there is no way I’m gonna do blackface, ever.” It’s that simple. Everyone has a camera, and the internet is forever, so that kind of insensitivity could very well follow you for the rest of your life. Save yourself the trouble, and stand up to your boyfriend. 

Also, tell your boyfriend that edgelords aren’t cool or cute or funny people. It takes no talent, intelligence or wit to punch down at marginalized communities or people who are less fortunate. It’s as easy as kicking a dog, and even more despicable. You don’t have to paint your skin to create a Michonne costume that will be obvious to both casual viewers and die-hard “TWD” fans—well chosen clothes and accessories will do the trick without insulting an entire community.


Bonita,

A new person just started at my job who has a gender expression that does not match their assigned gender at birth. The other people I work with have been absolutely AWFUL with this person, though not to their face. When I go into the break room, I hear them talking about them, saying things like, “He thinks he's a woman,” “Did you see his hair?", "This place is going to hell. The entire world is going to hell” and the worst, "No one is born like that." Aside from this, I have also walked in on conversations about how gay people prey on straight people. (In this instance, I pointed out how that behavior is commonly seen in cis-het men but never spoken of in such negative terms.)

I am fucking sick of this. Just sick of it. The biggest perpetrator is a co-worker who is also an ordained minister, who seems to think she is an expert on the human condition. I am a cis queer woman of color and have only come out to about four people at work. The majority of my coworkers are also POC. We are required to complete several trainings about sexual harassment each year, which specifically provide info on how to interact professionally and respectfully with queer, trans, gender nonconforming people and those who are differently abled.

I want to snitch on all these jerks. What do you think I should do?

Snitch on every single one of them, and feel nothing but good about it. Go directly to HR. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Give names, dates, times of day and as many direct quotes as you can remember. They have all the necessary training and knowledge about this issue, and they know that what they are doing is 100% wrong. They are making a choice to be bad people—much like the edgelord in the question above—and they have earned their consequences. Buy the ticket, take the ride. 

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use the anonymous form at flagpole.com/getadvice, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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