A video posted to the Facebook page of a Kaohsiung -based restaurant shows a man in blackface promoting the upcoming recall election of mayor Han Kuo-Yu. In the video, the man, dressed in a suit and tie, and wearing a headband promoting the recall election, urges people to get out and vote, and reminds them to wear a mask when doing so. He also mentions in the video that he is playing Tedros, the WHO director General, and makes a pun about wearing your mask and wearing your pants.
Taiwan Observer contacted the restaurant and inquired about the posts. The Facebook page features a number of pictures of the owner dressed up in a variety of different costumes, mainly portraying local deities and other characters. When asked if he knew how offensive this particular costume was to the black community, he claimed that it was not his intention in any way to mock or ridicule black people.
He went on to explain that he often paints his face different colors when portraying characters. He referenced his Guan Yu (an ancient military general) costume, wherein he painted his face red, and stated that he also painted his face white in his depiction of Chang’e, goddess of the Moon. He reiterated that painting your face when playing certain characters is common practice, and compared it to painting your face white when playing Ronald McDonald. He claimed that his only goal was to raise awareness for the upcoming recall vote in Kaohsiung, and to get people to mask up, not to ridicule any group of people.
Judging by the comment section, it is clear that many still do not understand how derogatory the use of blackface is to the black community. However, some commenters have attempted to bring the issue to his attention. When one commenter asked if the use of blackface was really necessary, the page issued t he following response (translated): “I also paint my face red when playing Guan Yu…Just smile…Don’t make too much of a fuss…Hahahahahaha.”
This is the second blackface incident on social media this week, this time specifically targeting Tedros. The WHO director general received backlash for accusing the Taiwanese government of facilitating a racist attack against him, as well as on Africans.
This incident coincides with the Black Lives Matter protests currently unfolding in the United States and around the world, which were sparked by the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery, George Floyd, and countless others.
Taiwan is now gaining more global recognition for its effective pandemic response and its push for soft power with mask diplomacy. Educating the public on issues important to the international community can only help to bring us closer to our allies.
*He has since deleted the video and issued the following apology (translated):
“Hello friends. I am the one who made the video that offended our black friends because of my ignorance towards our cultural differences. I apologize to the international community 120,000 points (times). I promise that I will do not this again. The post has been deleted. I am sorry.”