You might imagine that, in 2018, the racist act of putting on blackface would be rare or at least, widely condemned. On Tuesday, Megyn Kelly, host of the NBC panel discussion “Megyn Kelly Today,” was quoted saying: “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was okay just as long as you were dressing as a character.” In response to these comments, Kelly’s show was officially canceled by the network. Her being fired is, frankly, justified.
People in support of Megyn Kelly argue that negative reactions to blackface are just a part of the a new politically correct culture where most are supposedly offended by everything, which is false. Rather, negative reactions stem from the history of blackface. Blackface can be dated to the nineteenth century, when white people dressed up in black paint and overemphasized their lips and noses to mimic African American features for plays called minstrel shows, which were used to demean black people. The name Jim Crow, the namesake of laws that segregated African Americans in the south, originated from a minstrel routine. Jim Crow is a derogatory term and a harsh reminder of the mandatory separation. Blackface perpetuates negative stereotypes — to know this history and still fail to condemn blackface by brushing it off as a harmless action is disappointing.
If NBC let Kelly go with a slap on the wrist, we would let the Megyn Kellys of the world believe referring to the past is a viable excuse for wrongdoings and bigoted comments. Dismissing what may seem like “casual” racism as just a product of the past fails to recognize it for what it is: intentional ignorance. Megyn Kelly is a grown woman who should understand the negative repercussions of blackface, especially as this is not the first time she has made controversial statements. In May, she criticized Starbucks’s decision to allow their bathrooms to be open to all, stating, “Do you really want to deal with a mass of homeless people or whoever is in there — could be drug-addicted, you don’t know — when you’re with your kids?” Additionally, in January she said women like to be ashamed of their body and fat-shaming encourages weight loss.
Megyn Kelly marks another case where a reporter’s racially charged comments have led to their dismissal. Emily Austen, a reporter for Fox Sports Florida, also made derogatory remarks against people of color and was let go as a result. Perhaps news networks should work towards finding ways to encourage reporters to be more sensitive towards issues with complex historical context.
Amour Ellis is a Junior from Clifton, N.J. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.