The controversial issue of blackface – the darkening of one's skin to appear black – has surged back into the country's cultural conversation.
The 1984 medical school yearbook page of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam features a person in blackface posing next to someone dressed in a Ku Klux Klan costume.
After initially admitting to appearing in the photo, Northam later held a press conference denying involvement in the photo, but admitting to wearing blackface while impersonating Michael Jackson during a Florida dance contest in the 1980s.
A Democrat, Northam has rejected calls from within his own party to resign.
Adding to the controversy is Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, third-in-line to assume the state governorship, who also admitted to wearing blackface in 1980 while impersonating a rapper at a college party.
During and after the Civil War era, blackface caricatures were used theatrically to demean African Americans and propagate racist stereotypes.
Recent examples of blackface in a comedic context – like when Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon impersonated Karl Malone and Chris Rock, respectively, in 2000 – have raised eyebrows and questions on whether blackface is ever permissible.
Joining us to give their perspectives on this subject are Anthony LeBlanc, associate creative director of The Second City; and comedian and writer Aaron Freeman, the artist-in-residence of the Chicago Council on Science and Technology.
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