What Is the Big Deal About Blackface? Plenty.

As he was dying of AIDS-related pneumonia, the tennis great Arthur Ashe answered a reporter’s question about the greatest burden he had faced in life. The reporter might have expected Ashe to cite his diminishing health. Instead, Ashe, who grew up in segregated Richmond, Va., said “being black is the greatest burden I've had to bear."Ashe’s answer is as relevant now as it was then, an open window into this nation’s persistent, unrequited struggle with race. By now we all know the news about Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, both white Democrats. Herring has admitted wearing blackface as a Halloween costume in the 1980s. Northam weirdly suggested he might have done the same before retracting that admission. Meanwhile, Virginia Senate majority leader Tommy Norment, a Republican, edited a 1968 college yearbook filled with blackface photos.  Continue reading...

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