Another Blackface controversy has crept up on social media. World-renowned soccer star Antoine Griezmann incited outrage on Sunday after he posted a Twitter photo of himself dressed as a Black basketball player, complete with full-body blackface and an afro wig.
Things got even worse for the athlete: The 26-year-old French striker for the Atletico Madrid initially told his followers to “calm down” in response to the heavy criticisms that he got for wearing the racially insensitive outfit for a 1980s themed fancy dress party. “Calm down everyone,” Griezmann tweeted in a message that was later taken down along with his original post, CNN reported. “I’m a fan of the Harlem Globetrotters and this is a tribute.”
Folks were not standing for Griezmann’s photo and his accompanying message.
Griezmann later apologized, writing, “I recognize that it was insensitive on my part. If I have offended some people I apologize.”
What also was alluded to on social media was the painfully poignant history of blackface. The birth of minstrelsy brought the first shows that featured White performers with Blackened faces, initially performed in the 1930s in New York, according to the National Museum of African American History & Culture. White actors wore costumes that exaggerated and distorted the physical and cultural features of Blacks, acts that reinforced negative and hateful stereotypes. Blacks were categorized as “lazy, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexual, and prone to thievery and cowardice.” Thomas Dartmouth Rice, known as the “Father of Minstrelsy,” created the first well-known blackface character, “Jim Crow” in 1830. Blackface was built on “racial parody and stereotypes” and packaged as a family amusement.
It’s clear from many social media reactions that incidents of Blackface, whether appearing as holiday costumes or intended for entertainment, are tied to a history of racial hatred targeting African Americans.