Megyn Kelly recently defended blackface on NBC’s “Today” show, leading to the cancellation of her morning show and sparking discussions regarding her future employment with the network. While she is known for her outlandish views (she once vehemently argued that Santa can only be white), this one was clearly the last straw for the network, and it’s nice to see justice being quickly exacted against blatant racism.
Kelly’s reasoning for blackface not having racist connotations is that it was all good when she was a kid “as long as you were dressing up as a character.” But this is where she needs some serious educating regarding the huge difference between blackface and paying homage to an icon.
Blackface – as well as its derivatives, as Kelly pointed out while making her controversial comment – is racist. Flat out, not cool. It started out as a way for non-black actors to depict black characters without having to actually hire black people.
Its history is long and surprisingly still relevant, with comments such as Kelly’s giving support to cases of blackface on college campuses across the world, as well as Jimmy Fallon’s “Saturday Night Live” infamous Chris Rock impression from 2000.
Painting your face to mimic a person’s skin color is ignorant at best and harassment at worst, completely ignoring the history of blackface in order to add a level of “authenticity” to a costume that isn’t necessary.
If you want to dress as a popular character but don’t have the same skin color as they do, your costume is not ruined. Anyone wearing a black and red leather jacket with black pants is obviously Michael Jackson, despite what you see above their collar. There is no point in employing a form of oppression to pay homage to a beloved character – if the character is truly memorable, the outfit should speak for itself, regardless of who’s wearing it.
The cancellation of Kelly’s show shouldn’t be an exciting development that we applaud NBC for deciding upon – it should be what’s expected from any major news organization. Anchors have a disgusting amount of clout with their viewers, and sharing such a gross misunderstanding of blackface to this audience should not be tolerated by any network. We are inching towards this standard, but it’s sad that we aren’t there already.
Hopefully her dismissal will encourage news organizations to hire actual reporters instead of talking heads that spew out hot takes in an attempt to minimize the wrongness of clearly inappropriate actions. Probably not, but hopefully.
Isaac Espinosa is a fourth-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at email@example.com.