Dear University of Montreal Students Who Wore Black Face,

No.

Nope.

No way, guys.

While you’re cleaning the shoe polish off of your fucking faces, I will explain the situation to those who don’t know what happened: some white students from the University of Montreal Business School attended a “Olympics-themed sports and physical activity awareness event,” whatever THAT even means, wearing cobbled-together outfits in the colors of the Jamaican flag and smeared in dark makeup. (1.21 gigawatts, McFly! It 2011!) When it turned out some people did not like this, the students defended themselves by saying that it was simply a tribute (goooood tribute!) to Jamaican runner Usain Bolt. OK. According to Gawker:

A spokesman for the business school also defended the students, telling the Montreal Gazette that they “certainly didn’t want to offend anyone, it was really in the spirit of the Olympics.”

Hahha. Uh huh. Toooootally. Very olympic. Classic olympics. (There was also this from Gawker: “When one of the group members noticed [black McGill law student Anthony] Morgan, he yelled: “Look guys, we’ve got a real black!”" but we will just table that for now.) You can watch some video of the students (to whom this letter is addressed, so, some video of yourselves?) chanting “Smoke some weed! Yeah mon! Yeah mon!” (olympics-style) here:

Here’s the thing, University of Montreal Students who wore black face: I almost get it. I mean, I totally don’t get it, but I can imagine a scenario in which somehow in your white heads you decided that this would be a fun way to participate in the event. I’m not saying that you’re definitely racist just because you dressed up in black face and shouted “JAH MON!” because something something Jamaica. For real. Culturally insensitive: 110%. Poorly thought out: 900%. But maybe not “racist,” insofar as maybe you didn’t have any real point to make about black people or Jamaican people or white people or sports or the Olympics or Usain Bolt or tank tops or anything. Maybe you’re just a bunch of dumb fucking college students doing a dumb fucking thing as college students will.

That being said, just as a super-easy thing to remember for next time you’re worried about getting caught up in a minor black face scandal: DON’T WEAR BLACK FACE EVER EVER EVER. if you are at home getting ready to go out and you have black face on, WASH IT OFF BEFORE YOU LEAVE! And if you don’t have any black face on but you are considering whether or not to put on some black face, DON’T PUT ANY ON! Just in case, you should print out this wallet-sized flowchart and carry it with you at all times.

Good luck, University of Montreal students.
Sincerely,
Everyone Since, What, 1955?

Comments (120)
  1. Ugh! What is the matter with these people? Were they ALL given a HPV vaccination or something?

  2. Yikes. I bet even Roger Sterling is offended by this mess.

  3. They r sexy but they r bitches.

  4. Aww, Come on, they were just gearing up for the holiday season* by dressing up like Zwarte Piet

    *in the Netherlands

  5. Montreal resident here. No idea this even happened? But now I’m disgusted with all of my best friends, obviously.

  6. I tried to post this before, but it didn’t work! Which might be my computer’s way of telling me to shut up, but no, you shut up computer, you’re just jealous that I have thumbs.

    1) This is a great post
    2) That is a great flowchart, and I will pass it on (likely before getting glared at)
    3) I hope we do not get any blackface defenders here, but if we do, here is an emergency picture to get us through the trying time.

  7. Hold up, these were university students? I read the headline quick and only registered “students,” so I immediately thought of grade/middle school type kids that, I don’t know, maybe the teachers thought it was a good idea, or they were left to their own devices and just didn’t know the connotations blackface carries. But then I got to the video of ADULTS – yes, you are adults – in blackface and chanting and generally being assholes.

    I’m more baffled that the University is defending them! I’m sorry, the appropriate response was, “These students were very clearly out of line, and they will be disciplined accordingly.” You answer of “Eh, they didn’t mean anything by it, what’s your problem?” is wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

  8. True story:

    Brooklyn, NY
    2011

    I was with my younger (25 year old) brother. This was shortly after some other recent blackface scandal, I think involving a politician being photographed with people in blackface. I was commenting on how stupid you have to be to let that happen to you if you are a public figure. He just looked at me like I was crazy, because he had no idea that it was considered offensive. And I mean NO idea. He talked about how people in college and people in the neighborhood did that all the time on Halloween, and nobody was offended. As far as he knew, black people were totally a-ok with it. I tried to explain to him that plenty of people would be offended, and the whole history of why that would be, but HE COULD NOT BE CONVINCED.

    So anyway, tl;dr, but somehow a person raised in Brooklyn in the late 20th Century in the same house as me has absolutely no knowledge of this. I weep for all of us.

    • I have seen people in Brooklyn with black face before. I don’t know how everyone else responded, but I was definitely thinking “Oh, hey, look: an asshole.”

      • Oh, me too. It’s not that I would be surprised that some mook who grew up on my block did it, it’s that I was having the conversation with my very own brother who I know ought to know better.

        • When did it become okay to use the word mook? Was it always okay? I thought it wasn’t. Is this another societal contribution by people from Jersey Shore? I’m not kidding. I thought this was a really bad word… like I-talian.

          • I’m I-talian, so it’s ok.

            Although I never thought of it as an ethnic slur, just a vaguely derogatory term similar to meat head.

          • Ahhh. That makes sense in hindsight. I have only seen it used specifically in reference to guido/I-talian/WOP meatheads. But the people saying it were so offensive that everything they said was offensive and I just kind of put it in that realm with other terms you just don’t say.

    • My younger brother went as Kanye West for Halloween a few years ago… I know how you feel.

      • I met a girl in a November and started dating her. Then she got her Halloween photos back (this was a long time ago) and showed them to me; she and four of her girlfriends dressed as The Jackson Five, in blackface. “Some people were so pissed! But it’s funny because we didn’t just dress as another race, we dressed as another gender. We just wanted to be as different from what we are as possible and it was a tribute.”

        She had enormous knockers like two scoops of ice cream served by God Himself, so I accepted this explanation.

    • My mother dressed as Michael Jackson one year, but she actually used make-up to look more white…

      does that count?

    • Oy, this just brought back a terrible flashback. I once volunteered to be a lighting stand-in for one of them high-tech avant-garde opera productions. I thought I’d learn more about how the staging is planned, etc. So we show up and they assign us our roles. I’m tall, and so I get assigned to the tallest singer’s role. So far, so good, but there’s just one more thing. The singer is black, and I’m white. So they send me to makeup and slather on some blackface – no shitting. It was mortifying. And all day long I kept running into my real-life singer counterpart, and it was like “uh, hey, how’s it goin’. Don’t mind me, I’m just a dude hanging out wearing your costume and a pound of black makeup.”

    • So no one but you was offended, but it is still wrong? Maybe your brother is the voice of reason in all this when you think about it, something like “Gee, maybe I don’t have to be offended by things because, slavery, yeah, but common sense, too.”
      If your brother was wearing black face (you know, real black face) on a makeshift stage with old bed sheets and doing an uncle tom character, then would be the time to feel shame. If he dressed up as Mr. T for halloween, I would congratulate him for thinking of such a great costume.

  9. Incidentally, Whoopi Goldberg just broke up with the University of Montreal. (We’re still making 90′s jokes right?)

  10. Not going to lie, when I read black face + Jamaica + Olympics, my first thought was COOL RUNNINGS!

  11. My solution is for black people dress up as Ku Klux Klan members and lynch anyone wearing blackface.

  12. You gotta be poutine me on, guys!

  13. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Oh yeah those Canadians surely have never read anything related to American history. Nope. No way.

      • but American history – especially in America – is incredibly whitewashed and sanitized. all too often much of the negative aspects of our history, most often involving racism, are outright ignored. look at our treatment of native americans and the internment camps of Japanese as 2 primary examples, and I would include blackface as one of them.

        and sadly, the awareness of these things is diminished more and more so with every generation. ignorance is no excuse, but it is context. in my estimation and what I’ve learned from personal experience, seeing a person in blackface is far more hurtful to an african american than it is to an african.

        • The Japs should have thought of that before they bombed Pearl Harbor. And at least some of the Injun tribes had it coming (I’m looking at you, Nez-Perce).

      • I’m Canadian and I grew up in a small town on the east coast where there was some racial diversity, but not a whole lot. And while I now know that black face is very, very wrong, I would still have to google exactly WHY it is, were I to have a conversation about it. We learned very little about American history, and generally what I do know I learned myself.

        This in no way excuses what they did, I just think they may not have been aware of the full assholieness of their actions. Still, you’d think that SOMEONE at that school would have had a notion that this was a bad idea.

    • Nope, no way, can’t agree. Every Canadian knows that Blackface is racist. Its not like we all didn’t see “Bamboozled”.

    • Nope. As a Canadian (hi-fives all around for me), the concept of “blackface,” and its history and implications are not unknown. This isn’t like me not knowing the origins of the term “Cracker,” which I believe is exclusively parochial and American. There will be no playing the “oh, we didn’t know, we’re Canadian” here.

      • Fair enough. Didn’t mean to offer the excuse of ignorance (which is not an excuse). Just pointing out that people from other countries often don’t “get” our racial sensitivity rules.

        • I would disagree, I think racial insensitivity is pretty universal. I think black Canadians would be just as offended as black English, who would be just as offended as black Americans. Basically, if you speak English. Am I off in expecting that of other nationalities?

          • I think it’s a little more nuanced than that. African-Americans have a different cultural history than just People of African Descent in White Cultures generally. In particular, “blackface” as a cultural construct came straight from America. If you had no idea of the history of blackface performance you were linking yourself to, it would be less offensive than someone who appropriated that tradition deliberately. There’s a difference between “painting yourself black” and “going in blackface.”. As Gabe pointed out, both are absolutely unacceptable, but one is racist and the other just astoundingly ignorant.

            Point being, the fact that they’re Canadian does explain how they could just be ignorant of what they were doing, which would be a hard excuse to buy from anywhere in (most parts of) America.

        • MikeyObviously, I get what you’re saying. I remember when Harry Connick Jr. got pissed off on Australian TV over blackface. The Aussies had no idea what he was talking about.

    • 4 Canadians confirmed – this is unacceptable. I believe they call that a Quoorum.

      Seriously though, no it is never acceptable and these Canadian students are an equal level of “The worst” as anybody.

    • You guys, did you know that the United States invented racism?

    • i was reading down the comments and waiting to see if anyone else would make this point and if not I was going to.

      yes, it is 110% wrong, and although racism has no bounds, the cultural implications of blackface are far greater in America than, say, Canada. and this is Montreal, not Windsor or Toronto, so they are even further removed from American culture and its history. and I will repeat, that YES, it is wrong, but it most likely carries much less weight there than it does with Americans because of our long history of exploitation, blackface, and minstrel shows.

      also, i highly recommend spike lee’s Bamboozled as a great examination of that history and satire of how much of that has both been ignored/forgotten, while it actually hasn’t really gone away.

      • Thanks. I was trying to say something like this…obviously I can’t explain something better than explainer guy.

      • I have to laugh at this. Yes, it happened in Montreal, they may not see it through the prism of American racial politics, as people are often expected to do when it makes no sense.

        But guess what? Quebec and Montreal have their own history of absolutely lovely anti Afro Canadian sentiment, especially when it comes to Jamaicans and Haitians. Quebecers can start dressing up in blackface, and they do, when they stop blaming things on the immigrant vote.

    • No way. I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. As a grownup Canadian male, I am very much aware of the racial politics of black-face – and I think you would have to be a completely ignorant tool drunk on your own white privilege to not understand how incredibly racist it is.

      That is all.

    • I’m from Canada. Speaking as a Canadian, and in reference to the part regarding Canada, that was in no way true, and in no way an excuse. Who doesn’t understand the impact of slavery and race relations in the United States, and their resulting racial sensitivities?!? No one, that’s who.

      I WILL say this; doing the whole black face thing, on it’s own, is fine. Really. There was a white guy at a party earlier this summer, and he was Michael Jordan; bulls jersey, basketball, blackface. Didn’t mock the race, mock Jordan, anything, just acted, well, like MJ. I see nothing wrong with that. To these students, were they to “go blackface” (can we make that a thing?) and dress like one of the most famous Olympians alive today, again, I see no problem. It is the second they start mocking Jamaicans, and by extension black people, that it becomes a problem.

      Or does it? How many times have Jamaicans, or black people in general been parodied/mocked for their (supposed) love of the herb in popular culture? Are we acting like this is a new thing, such a shock? Sure, it is typically done by other African Americans, is based on a stereotype, and done in film, television, etc, but does that make a difference? Perhaps the race of the person involved is, in the end, arbitrary. Or maybe it is the forum through which this was done? What if it was a white comedian, rather than university students, and not painted in “blackface”, but equally mocking Jamaicans? Would that be different, if it was obviously centered around a comedy routine and not collegiate students? I guess in the end, I’m curious to see where the threshold lies, where this becomes a “thing”. What is the difference between, say, David Chappelle making “half baked”, which, among other things, contributes to the “black man/pot head” stereotype, and Dave Chappelle doing his “white guy” character on the Dave Chappelle show, parodying white people in the same way these white people parodied Jamaicans?

      This was all written as it came to me, and consequently is likely filled with a mix of stupidity and (hopefully) semi-formed counter arguments/ideas, and so may make little sense. But really? Proof reading and argument organization on a blog? Anyways, I’m interested in hearing from you dudes.

      • “Or does it? How many times have Jamaicans, or black people in general been parodied/mocked for their (supposed) love of the herb in popular culture?”

        “mocked” was a poor choice of words. Parodied is sufficient.

  14. “Oh, but Eddie Murphy gets to dress like this?”* – The dummy with a degree in logic from the University of Montreal


    * – Translated from the orginial french

  15. Maybe they just didn’t have proper instructions on how to make a sunflower?

  16. What? No..it’s like, not blackface MAN, it’s like, I’m pretending to be one of those, whatyoucallems…frozen…there’s fudge…I just…you know what I’m talking about here. Not offensive. Delicious.

  17. There is nothing I can say to fully express the degree of head-desk I am feeling right now, especially as a Canadian, but can I just say that is a just a very excellent flow chart? Yes, I can.

  18. ‘I don’t care if other people who did it in the past were considered racist. I have no context when it comes to racial history so that means nothing to me. So ultimately what I’m telling you is that I did this and am also not racist. Case closed! Where is my attache case?’ – These Guys

  19. When called out for being overtly racist, just play dumb. – Tea Party, Jeff Dunham, Whitey, etc.

  20. Getting in trouble for wearing blackface at your fancy university — white people problems.

  21. Robert. Downey. Jr.

  22. Hey guys, I’ve been in meetings all day. What are we talking abo– Whoa!

  23. I was pretty shocked until I read “Business School”, which my brain auto-translates to “Asshole Factory”, and then it made sense.

  24. “So, how’s everybody doing tonight? OK! How many people here are lucky enough to be members of the Nordic subgroup of the Arian race? Can I see some hands!”

  25. Can someone just make the “they had photos of black people in whiteface in their wallets” comment so I don’t have to?

  26. Lest we forget.

  27. Boy, that looked like some fun Olympics-themed “event.” What the hell is going on at that thing? I see bouncy castles and people yelling. Side note: my friend from San Diego calls bouncy castles “jump for joys” which is just wonderful.

  28. the fact that we have this same ‘conversation’ every year or so just has me feeling life is a merry-go-round of frustration, pain and idiocy that doesn’t end until you die. or maybe i’m just in a rut.

  29. The only group of Rastafarians to be blaring Dave Mathews on the way home.

  30. In a similar vein I saw this in the background last friday night,

  31. I truly wonder how many of the Holier-Than-Thou Community here enjoyed Tropic Thunder. I really hope at least some of you can see the connection between the “it’s just jokes, guy” mentality of your Comedy Elite, and things like this.

    Not to mention that Tropic Thunder is problematic ON ITS OWN. But it also encourages behavior like this. Ditto your beloved Community and Ken Jeong.

    But whatever, right? Those things are TOTALLY different.

  32. I don’t think dressing up like a particular black person is black face, but enough people choose to get upset and offended by it that it is considered black face, so there is a whole lot of halloween costumes that are off limits because of all the offended black people and all the offended liberal hippy pussies that choose to be offended on behalf of their black brothers.

  33. Would a black person dressing up as a white person be offensive? I guess not, because racism existed a long time ago, right? How about…dressing up as a Native American for halloween? Native Americans were treated horrifically by whites, do you consider it offensive?
    There is a difference between blackface and painting your face to look like another person.
    Gabe, you are a fan of Louis C.K.s shoe Louie, was Louie’s daughter wearing blackface when she dressed up as Frederick Douglas? Would someone who is half black and fair skinned dressed up as a black person with black makeup, would that be black face?
    You don’t have to have a knee jerk offended reaction to things all the time, release your white guilt and set yourself free.

  34. Am I the only one who saw one of the “Olympic-themed” participants simulating sex with a green monkey? What does that have to say about the “tribute” they were making to Jamaica? Maybe they were at the wrong Olympics?

  35. Still upset about this

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