For those of you who can’t get enough of the Raffi Torres costume controversy, here are a couple of opinion pieces from prominent newspaper columnists, each of whom has come down hard on Torres for dressing up as Jay-Z, face paint and all.
First there’s Bruce Arthur of the National Post.
Blackface, of course, is freighted with meaning. From the 1830s to the civil rights era, it was used to lampoon, dehumanize, and degrade black people, primarily in the United States. [Al] Jolson was one of its most famous practitioners, but there were many, with minstrel shows that stretched into the 1950s and ’60s. It’s essentially analogous to the Confederate Flag – it’s a symbol of racism and oppression to a lot of people, even as others insist it does not harm.
Arthur concedes that Torres didn’t use “the shoe polish Al Jolson used to wear,” but Torres still “painted himself to look like an African American. And historically, that carries a weight.”
The second condemnation comes courtesy Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, who focussed much of his wrath on the Phoenix Coyotes for defending Torres:
It’s ridiculous that a team would endorse a historically insensitive gesture at a team function while competing in a league where a player who recently shouted a homophobic slur went unpunished.
And it’s even more ridiculous that a team would promote an environment where such behavior is apparently so acceptable that one of Torres’ teammate felt it appropriate to show it to the world.
That this team is located in Phoenix, home of the infamous anti-immigration legislation, is just coincidental, isn’t it?
I don’t expect we’ll be hearing a whole lot more about this, as the world has bigger problems, but it sure did stir up a hornet’s nest, didn’t it?
Maybe Torres should play it safe and dress up as Powder next year.