A few weeks ago, a dance group for a local nightclub, the “Luxy Boyz,” received backlash for performing in blackface. They were trying to emulate a popular meme of Ghanaian pallbearers dancing with a coffin, set to electronic music. The problem with this was the clear use of blackface, or darkening the skin to make oneself look “black,” which is historically associated with minstrel shows and discrimination towards people of African descent.
That being said, it seems the backlash towards the Luxy Boyz failed to educate the broader community, because just two days ago, on May 31st, another such incident occurred. Three men from a comedy group known as the “Wackyboys” took to the streets of Tianmu in Taipei, Taiwan, once again donning blackface.
The three men went to a department store in Tianmu, where they sported the same garb as the men in the meme, carrying a prop coffin, and danced. None of that is where the problem lies. Rather, the problem lies in the fact that these men did this while in blackface, which demonstrates their ignorance to how this is deeply offensive to the black community.
Unfortunately, the insult doesn’t stop there. One of the men from the group posted a picture to Instagram of them holding the coffin with the caption “My cotton is coming.” This part of the post was later edited out. Now, the man could have simply made a mistake, mistaking “cotton” for “coffin,” as English is not his first language; this is not a huge leap in logic. At the same time, this shows that the poster understands that this part of the post was discriminatory to African people and made the correction.
This begs the question: if he can understand that the reference to “cotton” is discriminatory, then it shouldn’t be a huge logical leap to see how his other actions are also discriminatory, right? Yet the post remained up and the video and pictures have weren’t deleted from Facebook or Instagram. (This has since changed)
The previous incident with the Luxy Boyz showed us that if you are willing to listen and educate yourself, you can make a change for the better. The Luxy Boyz have changed their routine since the backlash. They have kept the garb, the coffin, and the dance, but they have removed the blackface make-up. They also deleted the videos and issued a public apology. That is a step in the right direction.
As seen in the comment sections, many have yet to realize that the concept of blackface is not something to be taken lightly. Many find it hilarious. Some pointed out the need for a fourth person to complete the group, and that three isn’t enough. A few are calling them out, explaining how and why blackface is offensive to the black community.
An insightful comment from a local musician, @kerilmusic tries to explain to the men that their actions are discriminatory, even going so far as to provide a full history lesson on the topic, complete with resources, to help them better understand why their actions are discriminatory and why they cannot be tolerated. The comment received almost 100 likes on the Instagram post, before deletion.
When contacted by Taiwan Observer, @kerilmusic said he is deeply disappointed that he has not received a response from the Wackyboys, and added that this is particularly tone-deaf and insensitive, considering the BlackLivesMatter protests currently unfolding in the United States and other parts of the world.
These protests were sparked by the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and countless others. The protests have been extensively covered by news outlets around the world, so it is not hard to believe that these career “influencers” have not seen what’s been going on.
However one of the group did respond to a fan saying that they did not mean to ridicule anyone and that they have deleted the posts. The Facebook video and Instagram posts have since been removed, but at the time of writing this, the Facebook photos remain visible to the public.
This isn’t to say that we condone sending hate messages to the Wackyboys or anyone else guilty of ignorance. We can use this opportunity, as @kerilmusic and many others did, to educate those that may still be ignorant, instead of calling for them to be “canceled” outright. The group has already started removing their posts, but they have yet to issue an apology. We will keep you posted if they do.