Support for blackface board member in Blevins draws national attention | Arkansas Blog

Friday, January 13, 2017

Support for blackface board member in Blevins draws national attention

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 8:10 AM

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The controversy about Ted Bonner, the Blevins School Board member who dressed up in minstrel-style blackface for Halloween, has now drawn attention from the Washington Post.

It's all there — his ironic receipt of an outstanding board member award for completing a training program while people upset by his act and failure to fully apologize were denied entrance to the meeting. The Post notes that several of those on hand, including a few among the 28 who were allowed to attend, wore "I Stand With Ted" T-shirts, which you can see in the screen shot of KATV coverage of the meeting.
On Monday, KATV reported, officials expected even more protests when they gave Bonner his pin.

But footage showed many in crowd wearing “I Stand With Ted Bonner” shirts instead.

“Now you see how many people actually stand with him,” one resident wrote on Facebook the next day. “And there is more than just the people . . . there tonight.”
Blevins is the centerpiece for an article that delves into incidents around the country and explanation of how the minstrel tradition evolved and came to be viewed as ugly racial stereotyping.
These minstrel shows “presented the black character as being stupid, as being comical, as being basically a frivolous character,” cultural critic Mel Watkins told PBS. “Now, how that impacted upon society itself was that they embraced it. They loved it. This was what people had thought about blacks all along. So [that] characterization of blacks then reaffirmed what mainstream America had been thinking all along.”

“Minstrelsy desensitized Americans to horrors of chattel slavery,” wrote Blair L.M. Kelley, an associate professor of history at North Carolina State University. “These performances were object lessons about the harmlessness of Southern slavery. By encouraging audiences to laugh, they showed bondage as an appropriate answer for the lazy, ignorant slave. Why worry about the abolition of slavery when black life looked so fun, silly, and carefree? Even the violence of enslavement just became part of the joke.”
In retrospect, I think this fits with the Robert E. Lee Holiday discussion. Could "I Stand with Marse Robert" T-shirts be coming to the Capitol?

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