Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

A Learning Experience

from Bruce Arthur of the National Post,

Hockey’s sociology department is really having a hell of a year. There was the banana thrown at Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers, a black player, during a pre-season game in London. Ont.; there was Simmonds caught on camera calling Sean Avery of the New York Rangers a “faggot” a couple days later. If you wanted to go further, there is the visor debate, which boils down to a sort of libertarian approach to personal safety, much as, say, seatbelts did. We all know how that one turned out.

And then Sunday, there was Raffi Torres and Paul Bissonnette. Bissonnette, the Phoenix Coyotes forward who has become a Twitter celebrity as @BizNasty2point0, who has over 150,000 followers, put a picture of his Coyotes teammate and his wife in their Halloween costumes as Jay-Z and Beyoncé. They had coloured their skin to appear black.

This, unfortunately, is a practice traditionally known as blackface. It wasn’t the shoe polish Al Jolson used to wear, but Raffi Torres painted himself to look like an African-American. And historically, that carries a weight.

To be clear, nobody should be saying that Torres is a racist.

continued

Filed in: NHL Teams, d, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: raffi+torres

Comments

Primis's avatar

Since black athletes make themselves white for Halloween outfits (like an NBA player did this year) and nobody said a word…. I see no issue here.

Posted by Primis on 11/01/11 at 12:59 AM ET

bezukov's avatar

Since black athletes make themselves white for Halloween outfits (like an NBA player did this year) and nobody said a word…. I see no issue here.

Posted by Primis on 10/31/11 at 10:59 PM ET

Primis, I’m not going to get into a huge racial dispute with you here but I will say two things:

1.) The distinction here lies in the fact that Latinos, American Indians, and African Americans didn’t rule the world for 2,000 years at the expense of everyone they encountered; nor did any European group ever experience any level of enslavement and exploitation close to that which several of North America’s ethnic minority groups endured at the hands of white people.  Due to that disparity, a couple of black athletes mocking white people doesn’t really compare in magnitude.  Whether or not it was in good taste is a separate, but not equivalent issue. 

2.) Use the right tool for the job man.  Better to use a scalpel than a hammer when dealing with soft tissue.

Setting all that aside, I can guess I can see how Torres could have grown up ignorant about the history of racism in America and what blackface is all about, but it seems like a real stretch to me.  Maybe some of our Canadian friends on the site could shed some light on whether or not the American civil rights movement is studied in Canadian schools.  I’d be interested to know.  I really hope for the sake of the sport that Torres isn’t playing stupid on this one (I think).

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 11/01/11 at 02:24 AM ET

John W.'s avatar

It’s HALLOWEEN, people dress up as things they’re not for HALLOWEEN, that’s kind of the whole point.  It’s not a white person acting in a film/play with blackface playing an African American part, it was a HALLOWEEN costume, get over it.

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 11/01/11 at 02:42 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

nor did any European group ever experience any level of enslavement and exploitation close to that which several of North America’s ethnic minority groups endured at the hands of white people.

This is patently false. I’d welcome additional reading on the habits of the Vikings, the Greeks, and the Romans as far as European slave trades are concerned.

European-on-African and later American-on-African slavery was certainly more recent, but it’s flat-out untrue to say that ancient slavery was somehow more humane.

I’m with John W on the rest here, but that’s my two cents.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/01/11 at 02:56 AM ET

bezukov's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/01/11 at 12:56 AM ET

JJ, perhaps I was over hasty in my comment.  However, I didn’t say that slavery in ancient Rome (or any other ancient society) was more or less humane than any other kind of slavery, so at least give me a break on that point my man.  I think we can both agree that slavery is wrong in all of its manifestations. 

At any rate Roman and Greek slavery ended well over a millennium ago, and Viking kidnapping didn’t compare in scale to the African slave trade.  So I would argue that those experiences have lost their cultural relevancy to the majority of humanity.  I am open to correction, but I don’t know of any society that still suffers today from the repercussions of Greek, Roman, or Viking slavery in the way black people in America (and probably even in Africa) do from the aftermath of the African slave trade.  In a way your specificity serves my point, because we are still talking about Europeans exploiting their neighbors.  But the historical quibble here is a distraction from my actual point.

The point I was making to Primis is one of identity.  A couple of black dudes dressing up to mock white people is not equal in magnitude to a white person in blackface.  This is the same principle behind the usage of the n-word.  The word has currency between black people because their usage of the word destigmatizes it.  When a white person uses it the word is restigmatized.  He had might at as well have said its ok for white people to say the n-word because black people do it.

Is it distasteful to use racial slurs or to dress up as caricatures of other racial groups?  I would say yes.  But it isn’t the same when someone from a majority social group employs those things against a minority group as opposed to the other way around.

By the by, and I’m not addressing this to you JJ (just saying this before someone else chimes in), I know Torres isn’t a white dude.  But I think we can all agree that he ought to have enough sense to know how that would come off.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 11/01/11 at 04:04 AM ET

bezukov's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/01/11 at 12:56 AM ET

I should also say that your point isn’t lost on me.  I know that Greek and Roman slavery was very large in scale, so I’ll concede that point.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 11/01/11 at 04:07 AM ET

Primis's avatar

Posted by bezukov from Wings Fan in exile: Columbus, OH on 11/01/11 at 12:24 AM ET

Again, I’ll repeat:

Why is it OK for Dwayne Wade to dress as Justin Timberlake in “whiteface”, but not for Torres to dress as Jay-Z and color his skin?

The moment someone can answer me that direct question, then we have something.  Everyone was incredibly-amused at Wade’s costume after all, it made Yahoo front page news and got lots of positive feedback in the press.

So respectfully,  until that question can be answered, the Torres story is a NON-STORY.  I’m sick of goddamned racial double-standards.

Posted by Primis on 11/01/11 at 09:28 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

The point I was making to Primis is one of identity.  A couple of black dudes dressing up to mock white people is not equal in magnitude to a white person in blackface.  This is the same principle behind the usage of the n-word.  The word has currency between black people because their usage of the word destigmatizes it.  When a white person uses it the word is restigmatized.  He had might at as well have said its ok for white people to say the n-word because black people do it.

I simply disagree with this, especially with the point on the n-word. It is not destigmatizing the word if white people can’t use it, it’s using a racially divisive word to further a racial divide. Black people calling each other the n-word doesn’t take any power away from that hateful word; it actually continues it.

While I understand that 80 years ago there wasn’t such a thing as black people wearing whiteface for a minstrel show, I don’t think that dressing up like a specific character should be all that evocative of this.

Again, we can go farther back in time and say that in Shakespearian times, women weren’t allowed to act in plays, so they used boys for those parts. I would say that sexism is still a very relevant issue today, yet if a professional athlete dresses in drag for Halloween, it’s not seen as some horribly distasteful reminder of this.  Sure, we’re talking about the difference between 400 years and 80 years, but I’ve never actually seen a minstrel show with people wearing blackface and I doubt there are many who have.

At some point, we just have to accept that bad shit happened in the past and that we’re working through it. I think getting up in arms about this case is not working through it.  And I will say that I agree with Primis’ point that furthering racial inequality by just accepting some races can do things that other races can’t is not a healthy way for a society to operate.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/01/11 at 10:19 AM ET

Avatar

Why is it OK for Dwayne Wade to dress as Justin Timberlake in “whiteface”, but not for Torres to dress as Jay-Z and color his skin?

The same reason it isn’t OK for a white hockey fan to throw a banana on the ice in front of Wayne Simmonds but it wouldn’t be a big deal for a black hockey fan to throw a Ritz cracker on the ice in front of Joe Thornton.

Posted by Garth on 11/01/11 at 12:31 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

JJ and Primis,

I already made my point so I won’t rehash it.  I just have to strongly disagree with both of you.  I stand by my opinion.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 11/01/11 at 12:40 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

So…again…the MSM is putting their proverbial head up their asses before posting stories…

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 11/01/11 at 12:50 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I already made my point so I won’t rehash it.  I just have to strongly disagree with both of you.  I stand by my opinion.

Fair enough.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 11/01/11 at 12:53 PM ET

WingsFanInBeanLand's avatar

I don’t know about you guys but I feel sorry for the Wiccan population with all those green-faces witches out there.

I don’t recall but was there this same outrage when Patty Kane and other Blackhawks players blackfaced as several Bulls players?

Posted by WingsFanInBeanLand from where free agents no longer dare. on 11/01/11 at 02:00 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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