The New York Times isn’t the only outlet claiming white people with soot on their faces are actually portraying “blackface.” For the Times, it was Mary Poppins and the chimney sweepers.
For an opinion writer for the Arizona Central, part of USA Today, it was a photo of blue-collar workers having a drink after work.
Opinion contributor Rashaad Thomas says he was in Phoenix recently at a holiday party. The restaurant he was in had photographs on the wall, as many do, but one in particular stood out to him. This photo showed a group of seven or so coal miners, covered head to toe in soot, their faces blackened to varying degrees, drinking beer at a pub. The photo also shows one man who doesn’t appear to be covered in soot and an unhappy woman.
Thomas’ friends told him, “It’s coal miners at a pub after work.” He “asked a Latinx and white woman for their opinion.” The two said the photo appeared to be of coal workers having a drink after work.
This didn’t sit well with Thomas, who asked to speak to a manager.
“Instead, I spoke with a white restaurant owner. I explained to him why the photograph was offensive. Evidently, someone else had made a similar comment about the photograph before,” Thomas wrote.
This owner apparently told Thomas he would speak to other restaurant owners about the photo. Thomas asked him, while leaving, if he had done so yet. No, he had not immediately rushed to phone other restaurant owners during the holiday season about a complaint over an old photo of coal miners.
Thomas was incensed, and took to the Internet with his opinion, asking: “Who determines what’s offensive?”
He writes that the photo is offensive to him and reminded him of the movie “Birth of a Nation.” But since everyone else just sees soot-covered coal workers — including that “white owner,” it apparently wasn’t offensive. Then Thomas includes this pivotal line:
“Fact: The photograph shows coal miners’ faces covered in soot. The context of the photograph is not the issue.”
But the context of the photo is the issue. We can’t allow people to just deem things racist that aren’t actually racist. The media has been doing this for years.
“At the downtown Phoenix restaurant, my concern that the photograph of men in blackface was a threat to me and my face and voice were ignored,” Thomas wrote. “A business’ photograph of men with blackened faces culturally says to me, ‘Whites Only.’ It says people like me are not welcome.”
So, an old photo of men who had just completed working a dangerous job for low pay was “a threat” to the “face and voice” of someone able to attend a party and publish his thoughts to the Internet?
At no time does Thomas say he was treated rudely or asked to leave, yet he says this photo, which few people would probably even notice or pay attention to, somehow said he was not welcome at this establishment?