Blackface: Artistic expression or too taboo? - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Blackface: Artistic expression or too taboo?

It's a Halloween trend that some say is crossing the line: Dressing up in blackface.

It's stirred controversy before for such celebrities as Ted Danson, Billy Crystal, and Sarah Silverman.

In spite of that, and the general taboo associated with wearing blackface, it's happened again.

This time, it's Dancing With the Stars personality Julianne Hough, who donned blackface while dressing as the character "Crazy Eyes" from the TV show Orange is the New Black. The backlash came quickly on Twitter. She later posted an apology, saying she dressed that way because she's a huge fan of the show.

Hough's misstep might not have been the result of any intent to offend, or even to make a statement. But an image making the rounds on Instagram that shows a white partygoer dressed up in blackface as a bloodstained Trayvon Martin has stirred up just as much anger. In the photo, a mean wearing a "Neighborhood Watch" t-shirt is seen making a "gun" gesture with his hand, pointed at Martin's head. The tags in the photo include #funny, #joke, #zimmerman and #trayvon.

We showed both of these images to some folks around Shreveport, and the overwhelming majority of them didn't see the humor. "Honestly I think that it is disgusting, I don't agree with it," said Michael Nadale. "I think there are plenty of other things that you could find that would be funny."

"It's one thing to be a character, but Trayvon Martin is not a character," said Vanna Richardson. "He was a real person, and it distasteful on so many levels."

Online, reaction has ranged from condemnation to the website, shouldidressinblackfacethishalloween.com, offering simple and straightforward advice for anyone even thinking about it. 

But not everyone believes there's no place for blackface.

Some, like Will.i.am of the Black Eye Peas, have used and defended the practice as artistic expression, trying to separate the concept of art from its racially-charged history in minstrel shows in the 1800s as a stereotyping caricature of a black person.

Copyright 2013 KSLA. All rights reserved.

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