Really, Raffi?

I took a screen shot of this from the celebrity gossip blog “Perez Hilton.” It is an image of NHL player Raffi Torres dressed in black face as Jay-Z and his wife dressed as Beyonce, followed by an official statement from the Phoenix Coyotes. Professor Dirk’s states in her article on Haloween that “Halloween allows masqueraders to step out of their everyday roles, opening up a wide range of personal for adoption, if only temporarily” (3). Torres and his wife are presenting their “others” to the world by dressing up in black face, while disregarding the fact that this is extremely offensive. To repeat the question that was raised in class today, could Raffi and his wife have dressed as Jay-Z and Beyoncé without dressing in black face? What is the need to capture the race of the individual in regards to the success of the costume?

I found it kind of comical that the Phoenix Coyotes said that “there was absolutely nothing racist about Raffi and his wife’s costumes…”. Clearly they are ignorant to the history of the concept of black face. This ignorance further brings up the question of education of the issue, and why people are motivated to dress in black face in general.

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7 thoughts on “Really, Raffi?

  1. Halloween certainly brings a lot of fresh content to analyze sociologically. I find this post interesting because of how genuinely innocent the hockey player felt as well as the whole hockey team as an organization. However, we are blessed with the sociological knowledge that we have accrued over the past few years at Occidental College, and we cannot assume that everyone will have the same sociological point of view that we have. That being said, there is no excuse for behavior like this but instead of criticizing those that have these costumes we should try to educate them and see if they can understand the world how many of us see it.

  2. It seems appalling to me that Raffi and his pals don’t find this to be racist, or even slightly questionable. Although Jay-Z and Beyonce are very popular social figures it seems bizarre to paint one’s entire body black, not only because of the history of black face, but also because of the social stigma of it all.
    Today I found myself looking on the website of a famous restaurant and noticed that their pictures of the venue included many people dressed in black and white face. I was extremely shocked that an upscale restaurant would advertise such blatant racism as something cool and trendy. This also made me think more about Prof. Dirks’ question about whether white face was as racist as black face– what do you guys think?
    Here is the website to look at the pictures:
    http://www.supperclub.com/html/amsterdam/gallery/images/

  3. I mean, I’m aware of the history and offensive tradition of blackface comedy back in the day, but I think you might have to try and draw the line between action and intention. I feel like at the rate society is going, everything is going to end up being racist, insensitive, or offensive in some way to some group of people out there. Raffi took a bold leap here and honestly he was Jay-Z for Halloween, not a “black” man. He wanted to be authentic I guess so he colored his face. Comedians like Dave Chappelle do this sort of thing all all the time in reverse and everyone seems to be cool with it (even though he usually tries to be a generic white man instead a specific person) and I know I found it funny! And the thing is that I’ve had the same “education” at Occidental that everyone else has, but I just simply feel that if we weren’t so uptight about political correctness and not stepping on anyone’s feet that we might be able to all get along better as a community. I’m by no means racist or anything nor do I feel the need to prove that to anyone, but It is for this reason that I find “South Park” to be one of the greatest shows on television as it knows no bounds and makes fun of everyone equally. For this reason, no one should feel singled out because everyone has been picked on equally!

    • I do see validity in your stance that racial offenses are sometimes too easily taken, as well as an double standard on which races can cross the line (as you said, Chappelle imitating a white man is not given the hassle that the Hockey player dressing as Jay-Z is given ) I think that what makes it difficult with individuals dressing as black-face or “becoming” another race for costuming is that it is too difficult to draw the line between “fun play” and actual racism. For example, I do not see the Hockey player as being racist for painting himself to fully embody the look of Jay-Z, however, college “ghetto fabulous” parties or being a generic black-face are offensive because they reinforce negative stereotypes. So while I see a distinction between such instances, overall I do not think that society really does take to time to consider and contemplate why something is offensive, or racist, or not. Therefore, a white man painted in a black-face, regardless of intention brings offense. Ultimately it is reminiscent of the dark historical background of where such traditions originated. And though it is sought to be softened by putting the name of a specific character, or celebrity, ultimately the roots of black-face cannot be separated from such act.

  4. I never really thought of blackface as something necessarily being racist as i thought that it origins came from Halloween and it being a Halloween costume. I didn’t know the truth behind blackface and what it represented however, after watching the film that Professor Dirks played in class and learning the history of blackface it really changed my perception of it. I think that people would not see blackface in the same manner if they knew where it really came from and how it original came about to make fun of the recently freed slaves and to keep the concepts that they are inferior to white americans at the time. If people knew the truth about blackface they wouldn’t ask, “what is so racist about it?”

  5. I think this goes beyond educating society on the issue. I can not speak for other college campuses, but each year at Oxy Black Student Alliance sponsors a dialogue called “Ethnicity as a Costume”. Although this is an campus-wide event, who typically attends this dialogue? The students of color make up the majority of the attendance. Maybe education is not the answer. Students of color on campus do not need to waste their time if white students (who are the ones displaying black face as a costume on Halloween or continually dress up as Native American) are not going to listen. People need to show interest in this subject and in the history and reasoning as to why racial costumes are extremely offensive to people of color, instead of caring so much if they successfully capture the race in a costume.

  6. This costume does present racist connotations, but I do not believe there was any intent of harm by Raffi Torres. At several parties this halloween weekend, I noticed white students dress up in attire that truly were racist as they openly wore and expressed misinformed African-American stereotypes. In response to Toress’ costume, the color change of his skin may be an attempt to portray Jay-Z more realistically due to our society’s admiration for celebrities. Torres does not seem to wrongly portray the African-American race through misguided stereotypes. Since Jay-Z does not wear provactive clothing or noticeable tattoos, Torres may have felt that changing his skin color would have shown a more realistic representation of Jay-Z. My ONLY defense for his decision though, once again, is his admiration for celebrities like the rest of society. To answer the question, I feel if Raffi didn’t change his skin color, people would not have known that he was Jay-Z. Jay-Z is too subtle of a dresser and Raffi seemed to believe that changing his skin color would better portray him. I urge him to not do this next time, for changing one’s skin tone is racist regardless of one’s intent. I think people should educate Torres rather than point fingers at him, as he represents our remaining ignorance of racism in society.

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