All eyes may be on Virginia and its gubernatorial blackface scandal right now — but really, the bigger and juicier story is watching members of the media duck and dodge for the Democrats caught between a rock and a racist place.
Honestly, it’s getting confusing to keep track of when blackface is racist, when it’s not and just whom we’re supposed to hate.
Gov. Ralph Northam? OK. Check. He denies he’s the blackface guy in his 1984 medical college yearbook, but that was after he admitted it. The flip-flopping makes him an easy mark; if not a blackfacer, he still appears to be a liar. But what about the others — what of Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring? What to do, what to do.
Headlines like this, from The New York Times, are just such a hoot: “Virginia Attorney General Says He Also Dressed in Dark Makeup.”
Herring, interesting to note, is a Democrat. The point? Well, it’d be hard picturing The Times writing such a headline for, say, Republican Ken Cuccinelli back when he was attorney general, had he faced similar blackface issues.
Twitter, thankfully, humorously, took The Times to task.
Here’s a selection of comments, as collected by Mediaite: “NYT: Virginia AG admits to excessive contouring.” And this: “NYT headline writers what are you thinking? ‘Dark Makeup.’ ” And this: “Would have loved to be a fly on the wall for the tortured editorial discussion that led to the Times going with ‘dark makeup’ here.” And one more — this: “Oh so what’d he wear @nytimes? Was it a particularly smoky eye? Maybe some autumnal hues? A bold purple lipstick? I can’t tell.”
A red-faced Times ultimately changed the headline. Later versions of the story screamed, “Virginia Attorney General Says He Also Dressed in Blackface.”
But that’s not the only head-shaker in recent blackface scandal times.
Over at ABC’s “The View,” viewers were just reminded how long-time leftist co-host Joy Behar explained in a 2016 segment how, at the age of 29, she dressed as what she described as a “beautiful African woman” for a Halloween party — even going so far as to apply facial makeup “that was a little bit darker than my skin,” she said.
The televised segment, Fox News noted, flashed a photograph of Behar’s Halloween look that was such a dramatic change, it led Raven-Symone, a former fellow “view” co-host who is black, to quip: “Joy, are you black?” and “Are you my auntie, Joy?” and “Did you have tanning lotion on, Joy?”
A better question might have been: “Joy, are you wearing blackface?”
Or, as The Times might put it: dark makeup.
Blackface is likely to remain a hot media item for cycles to come, particularly since Northam is refusing to leave his seat. But it’d be nice to get the rules straight, the definitions solidified. It’d be nice to come to a consensus on what’s blackface, what’s dark makeup, who gets a pass versus who doesn’t — and oh yes, when the statute of limitations for punishment hits its deadline.
So far, it seems, we’re going back to 1984. Let the confusion reign.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley.