In the Netherlands and Belgium, people annually celebrate St. Nicolas Eve with Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas, accompanied by multiple helpers or Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes). The first is typically an older white man similar to the American Santa, while the latter are usually adolescent boys and girls, and men and women in make-up and attire similar to the American blackface. The task of the Pieten is generally to entertain the children with jokes and pranks, and to help Sinterklaas distribute presents and dole out candy. The Pieten wear Moorish page boy costumes and partake in parades. The Moorish Zwarte Piet character has been traced back to the middle of the 19th century when Jan Schenkman, a popular children's book author, added a black servant to the Sinterklaas story. According to folklore, the skin of the Pieten is colored by soot from going down chimneys to bringing presents into people's houses. However, the original and archetypal Zwarte Piet is believed to be a continuation of a much older custom in which people with blackface appeared in Winter Solstice rituals. In other parts of Western Europe and in Central Europe, black-faced and masked people also perform the role of companions of Saint Nicholas, who is known as Nikolo in Austria, Nikolaus in Germany and Samichlaus in Switzerland. Also on Saint Martin's Eve, black-faced men go around in processions through Wörgl and the Lower Inn Valley, in Tyrol.
Due to Zwarte Piet's strong aesthetic resemblance to the archetypal US blackface, as well as the dynamics between the blackface servants and the white Sinterklaas, there has been international condemnation of the practice since the 1960s. Some of the stereotypical elements have been toned down in recent decades as a result of increasing protests within the nation. For example, there has been a transition towards applying only a few smears of 'soot' to the Piet's cheeks, rather than apply a full blackface. The public support for changing the character was at 5% (versus 89% opposed to such changes) in 2013, which increased to 26% (versus 68% opposed to such changes) in 2017. However, in 2019, support for changing the character of Zwarte Piet underwent a slight decline, with opposition to changes increasing. In 2020, following the death of George Floyd and worldwide protests against racism, the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte (who previously, since 2013, had strongly supported Zwarte Piet and condemned protests against Zwarte Piet and suggestions for change) stated he had changed his mind on the matter and hoped the tradition would die out. Yet, he emphasized not intending to impose an official ban and noted he too retains sympathy towards those who do not want to let go of Zwarte Piet.
On the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, children go door to door in threes wearing paper crowns (to commemorate the biblical magi), carrying a lantern and singing songs. They are dressed in adult clothing (to commemorate the massacre of the innocents) and one of the three may be in blackface to depict Balthazar.
Up until the early 2000s, white comedians sometimes used makeup to represent a black person, most often as a parody of an actual person. Many of these segments have been aired during the annual New Year's Eve TV special "Bye Bye." For instance, the 1986 edition features three such skits:
The Montreal-based satiric group Rock et Belles Oreilles did its own blackface sketches, for instance when comedian Yves Pelletier disguised himself as comedian and show host Gregory Charles, making fun of his energetic personality (not of his racial background) on his television game show "Que le meilleur gagne". RBO also did a parody of a talk show where a stereotypical Haitian man (Pelletier again) was easily offended, as well as a group parody of the Caribbean band La Compagnie Créole and a sketch about the lines of African-American actors that were mangled in movie translations. Pelletier did another parody of Gregory Charles for the New Year's Eve TV special "Le Bye Bye de RBO" in 2006 (as an homage to Charles who had had a particularly successful year), along with a parody of Governor General Michaëlle Jean. And in RBO's 2007 "Bye Bye", Guy A. Lepage impersonated a black Quebecer testifying during the Bouchard-Taylor hearings on cultural differences, while in another sketch, Lepage, Pelletier and Bruno Landry impersonated injured Darfur residents.
In September 2011, HEC Montréal students caused a stir when using blackface to "pay tribute" to Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt during Frosh Week. The story went national, and was even covered on CNN. The university students were filmed in Jamaican flag colours, chanting "smoke weed" in a chorus. The University later apologized for the lack of consciousness of its student body.
In May 2013, comedian Mario Jean (fr) took part in an award show to imitated several fellow comics, donning blackface when he came to Boucar Diouf (fr), a Senegalese-born story-teller. Many Quebec pundits defended the practice and Diouf himself praised Jean for his open-mindedness.
In December 2013, white actor Joel Legendre (fr) performed in blackface in "Bye Bye 2013", in yet another parody of Gregory Charles, this time as host of the variety show "Le choc des générations".
In December 2014, the satirical end-of-year production by Théâtre du Rideau Vert, a mainstream theatre company, included a blackface representation of hockey player P.K. Subban by actor Marc Saint-Martin. Despite some criticism the sketch was not withdrawn.
In March 2018, comedian of the year Mariana Mazza (fr), whose parents are Arab and Uruguayan, celebrated International Women's Day by posting a message on her Facebook page which read "Vive la diversité" (Hurrah for diversity) and was accompanied by a picture of herself surrounded by eight ethnic variations, including one in a wig and makeup that showed what she'd look like if she were black. She immediately received a flurry of hate messages and death threats, and two days later, posted another message in which she apologized to whoever had been offended, but argued that she had been "naively" trying to "express her support for all these communities."
In June 2018, theatre director Robert Lepage was accused of staging scenes that were reminiscent of blackface when he put together the show "SLĀV" at the Montreal Jazz Festival, notably because white performers were dressed as slaves as they picked cotton. After two initial performances, lead singer Betty Bonifassi broke an ankle and the rest of the summer run was canceled, but later performances were nevertheless scheduled in other venues. The controversy prompted further protests about the play "Kanata" that Lepage was to stage in Paris about the Canadian Indian residential school system – without resorting to any indigenous actors. The project was briefly put on hold when investors pulled out, but the production eventually resumed as planned.
On September 18, 2019, Time magazine published a photograph of Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau wearing brownface makeup in the spring of 2001. The photograph, which had not been previously reported, was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. The photograph showed Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appeared in the 2000-2001 yearbook of the West Point Grey Academy, where Trudeau was a teacher. A copy of the yearbook was obtained by Time earlier in the month from Vancouver businessman Michael Adamson, who was part of the West Point Grey Academy community. Adamson said that he first saw the photograph in July and felt it should be made public. On September 19, 2019, Global News obtained and published a video from the early 1990s showing Trudeau in blackface. The video showed Trudeau covered in dark makeup and raising his hands in the air while laughing, sticking his tongue out and making faces. The video showed his arms and legs covered in makeup as well.
There are some occurrences of blacking up (completely covering the entire exposed body) with afro wigs and stereotypical grass skirts and costume at festivals in this African country.
On February 15, 2018, a comedy sketch titled "Same Joy, Same Happiness" intending to celebrate Chinese-African ties on the CCTV New Year's Gala, which draws an audience of up to 800 million, showed a Chinese actress in blackface makeup with a giant fake bottom playing an African mother, while a performer only exposing black arms playing a monkey accompanied her. At the end of the skit, the actress shouted, "I love Chinese people! I love China!" After being broadcast, the scene was widely criticized as being "disgusting", "awkward" and "completely racist" on Twitter and Sina Weibo. According to the street interviews by the Associated Press in Beijing on February 16, some Chinese people believed this kind of criticism was overblown. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, who also watched the skit, said that China had consistently opposed any form of racism, and added, "I want to say that if there are people who want to seize on an incident to exaggerate matters, and sow discord in China's relations with African countries, this is a doomed futile effort" at a daily news briefing on February 22, 2018.
In 2021 CCTV's New Year's Gala show once again featured performers in blackface wearing approximations of African clothing. Like in 2018 it received criticism both within China and internationally. The Chinese foreign ministry responded to criticism by saying that it was not an issue and that anyone saying otherwise must have ulterior motives.
In Europe, there are a number of folk dances or folk performances in which the black face appears to represent the night, or the coming of the longer nights associated with winter. Many fall or autumn North European folk black face customs are employed ritualistically to appease the forces of the oncoming winter, utilizing characters with blackened faces, or black masks.
In Finland, a version of the Star boys' singing procession originating in the city of Oulu, a musical play known as Tiernapojat, has become established as a cherished Christmas tradition nationwide. The Tiernapojat show is a staple of Christmas festivities in schools, kindergartens, and elsewhere, and it is broadcast every Christmas on radio and television. The Finnish version contains non-biblical elements such as King Herod vanquishing the "king of the Moors," whose face in the play has traditionally been painted black. The character's color of skin is also a theme in the procession's lyrics.
The last installation of the Pekka and Pätkä comedy film series, Pekka ja Pätkä neekereinä (Pekka and Pätkä as Negroes), was made in 1960. In the film a computer tells the title characters that a "negro" would be a suitable profession for them. They blacken their faces and pretend to be American or African entertainers performing in a night club, talking self-invented gibberish that is supposed to be English. The computer meant "negro" as a now archaic term for a journalist, which originates from journalists' hands becoming tinted black with ink when handling prints. When Finland's national public broadcasting company Yle aired this film 2016, some people on the social media disapproved of it and insisted that the film should have been censored, or at least the name changed. A representative from Yle said that an old movie should be evaluated in the context of its own time, and that the idea of the movie is to laugh at people being prejudiced. When the film series was aired in 2019, this particular film of the series was left unaired.
Before the 1990s the word "neekeri" (negro) was generally considered neutral, inoffensive word.
A group of showmen in the Cologne Carnival called Negerköpp, founded in 1929, act with their hands and faces painted black.
The Germany-based Dutch musician Taco Ockerse stirred up controversy in 1983 by using dancers in blackface for his hit synthpop version of "Puttin' on the Ritz".
In Germany, blackface was used in several theatrical productions.[when?]
Examples of theatrical productions include the many productions of the play "Unschuld" (Innocence) by the German writer Dea Loher, although in this play about two black African immigrants, the use of black-face is not part of the stage directions or instructions. The staging of the play "Unschuld" (Innocence) at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin was also subject of protest. The activist group "Bühnenwatch" (stage watch) performed a stunt in one of the stagings: 42 activists, posing as spectators, left the audience without a word and later distributed leaflets to the audience. Fundamental of the criticism was that the use of black-face solidifies stereotypes regardless of any good intentions and supports racist structures. The critics were invited to a discussion with the director, actors, theatre manager and other artists of the Deutsches Theater. As a result of the discussion, Deutsches Theater changed the design of actor make-up. Ulrich Khuon, the theatre manager, later admitted to being surprised by the protest and is now in a process of reflection.
German productions of Herb Gardner's I'm Not Rappaport almost always cast the role of Midge Carter, the black character, famously portrayed in the U.S. by Ossie Davis, with a white actor in black makeup. The 2012 production of the play at the Berlin Schlosspark-Theater was the subject of protest. The director, Thomas Schendel, in his response to critics, argued that the classical and common plays would not offer enough roles that would justify a repertoire position for a black actor in a German theatre company. The protest grew considerably and was followed by media reports. While advocates of the theatre indicated that in principle it should be possible for any actor to play any character and that the play itself has an anti-racist message, the critics noted that the letter unwillingly disclosed the general, unexpressed policy of German theatres, i.e., that white actors are accounted to be qualified for all roles, even black ones, while black actors are suitable only for black roles. Other authors said that this problem in Germany generally exists for citizens with an immigrant background. The debate also received foreign media attention. The Schlosspark-Theater announced plans to continue the performances, and the German publishing company of Rappaport stated it will continue to grant permits for such performances.
German dramatists commented on the debate:
In 2012, the American dramatist Bruce Norris cancelled a German production of his play Clybourne Park when it was disclosed that a white actress would portray the African-American "Francine". A subsequent production using black German actors was successfully staged.
Guatemalan 2015 elected president, Jimmy Morales, was a comic actor. One of the characters he impersonated in his comic show "Moralejas" was called Black Pitaya which used blackface makeup. Jimmy Morales defended his blackface character saying he is adored by the country's black Garifuna and indigenous Mayan communities.
Hajji Firuz is a character in Iranian folklore who appears in the streets by the beginning of the New Year festival of Nowruz.
In Japanese hip hop, a subculture of hip-hoppers subscribe to the burapan style, and are referred to as blackfacers. The appearance of these blackfacers is evidence of the popularity of the hip-hop movement in Japan despite what is described as racist tendencies in the culture. Some Japanese fans of hip-hop find it embarrassing and ridiculous that blackface fans do this because they feel like they should not change their appearance to embrace the culture. In some instances it can be seen as a racist act, but for many of the young Japanese fans it is a way of immersing in the hip hop culture the way they see fit. The use of blackface is seen by some as a way to rebel against the culture of surface images in Japan.
Blackface has also been a contentious issue in the music scene outside of hip hop. One Japanese R&B group, the Gosperats, has been known to wear blackface makeup during performances. In March 2015 a music television program produced by the Fuji TV network was scheduled to show a segment featuring two Japanese groups performing together in blackface, Rats & Star and Momoiro Clover Z. A picture was published online by one of the Rats & Star members after the segment was recorded, which led to a campaign against broadcasting of the segment. The program that aired on March 7 was edited by the network to remove the segment "after considering the overall circumstances", but the announcement did not acknowledge the campaign against the segment.
In modern-day Mexico there are examples of images (usually caricatures) in blackface (e.g., Memín Pinguín). Though there is backlash from international communities, Mexican society has not protested to have these images changed to racially sensitive images. On the contrary, in the controversial Memín Pinguín cartoon there has been support publicly and politically (chancellor for Mexico, Luis Ernesto Derbez). Currently in Mexico, only 3–4% of the population are composed of Afro-Mexicans (this percentage includes Asian Mexicans).
Portobelo's Carnival and Congo dance in Panama include a use of blackface as a form of celebration of African history, an emancipatory symbol. Black men paint their faces with charcoal which represents three things. Firstly, the blackface is used as a tool to remember their African ancestors. Secondly, the black face is representative of the disguise or concealment on the run which slaves would have used to evade the Spanish colonizers. Lastly, the practice of blackface is used as a way to signify the code or "secret language" which slaves would have used during the time of the Spanish occupation. During the celebration, for example, good morning will mean good night, and wearing black, or in this case wearing blackface, which normally denotes a time of mourning, is instead used as a way to represent a time of celebration.
Recently,[when?] Eduardo Madeira dressed up as Serena Williams, adding an African accent the tennis player does not have in real life. Use of black performance in impersonations was quite frequently used in the (ongoing) song and impressions show A Tua Cara não Me É Estranha, with blackface impressions of Michael Jackson, Siedah Garrett, Tracy Chapman, Louie Armstrong, Nat King Cole, among others.
In Brazil, there has been at least some history of non-comedic use of blackface, using white actors for black characters like Uncle Tom (although the practice of "racelift", or making black/mulatto characters into mestiços/swarthy whites/caboclos, is more frequent than blackface). Use of blackface in humor has been used more rarely than in Portugal, although it also continues into this century (but it creates major uproar among the sizeable and more politically active Afro-Brazilian community).
Some Brazilian comics like Monica's Gang also portrayed black characters with circles around their mouths and sometimes without noses like the character Jeremiah and also Pelezinho (which was a comic adaptation of the real soccer player Pelé). However, after the 1980s the black characters of these comics began to be drawn without circles in the mouth and with normal thin lips and old comics had the blackface censored in republications.
It wasn't unusual for people to wear a blackface at carnivals in Puerto Rico in the 20th century. In 2019, when blackface was prominently featured at a carnival in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico, the town immediately faced backlash and criticism.
Inspired by blackface minstrels who visited Cape Town, South Africa, in 1848, former Javanese and Malay coolies took up the minstrel tradition, holding emancipation celebrations which consisted of music, dancing and parades. Such celebrations eventually became consolidated into an annual, year-end event called the "Coon Carnival" but now known as the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival or the Kaapse Klopse.
Today, carnival minstrels are mostly Coloured ("mixed race"), Afrikaans-speaking revelers. Often in a pared-down style of blackface which exaggerates only the lips. They parade down the streets of the city in colorful costumes, in a celebration of Creole culture. Participants also pay homage to the carnival's African-American roots, playing Negro spirituals and jazz featuring traditional Dixieland jazz instruments, including horns, banjos, and tambourines.
The South African actor and filmmaker Leon Schuster is well known for employing the blackface technique in his filming to little or no controversy. But in 2013, the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa halted the airing of an ad wherein Schuster portrayed a stereotypically dishonest African politician in blackface. The action was in response to the following submitted complaint:
Vodacom South Africa has also been accused of using non-African actors in blackface in its advertising as opposed to simply using African actors. Some have denounced blackface as an artefact of apartheid, accusing broadcasters of lampooning Black people. Others continue to see it as "harmless fun". In 2014, photos of two white University of Pretoria female students donning blackface makeup in an attempt at caricaturing Black domestic workers surfaced on Facebook. The students were said to face disciplinary action for throwing the institution's name into disrepute, this despite having perpetrated the incident at a private party and later taking down the images.
Comedians in many Asian countries continue to occasionally use minstrel-inspired blackface, with considerable frequency in South Korea. "Acting black" has been a common phenomenon in South Korean media for more than 30 years: in the 80s, comedians used to perform with darkened faces without attracting criticism. Although criticism has increased, one could still see use of blackface in Korean media in the last year: a performer used blackface in a TV show, a play called “The Blacks” used blackface, as well as a K-pop group doing a cover for one Bruno Mars’ songs. More recently, students posted pictures in which they pose in blackface for Halloween.
Taiwanese YouTube comedy group The Wackyboys came under fire after some of its members blackfaced for a Dancing Pallbearers parody video. The group later apologised and deleted the video.
In Thailand, actors darken their faces to portray the Negrito of Thailand in a popular play by King Chulalongkorn (1868–1910), Ngo Pa (Thai: เงาะป่า), which has been turned into a musical and a movie.
From 1723 to 1823, it was a criminal offence to blacken one's face in some circumstances, with a punishment of death. The Black Act was passed at a time of economic downturn that led to heightened social tensions, and in response to a series of raids by two groups of poachers who blackened their faces to prevent identification. Blackening one's face with soot, lampblack, boot polish or coal dust was a traditional form of disguise, or masking, especially at night when poaching.
The Welsh Rebecca Rioters (1839–1843) used to blacken their faces or wear masks to prevent themselves being identified whilst breaking down turnpike gates, sometimes disguised as women.
South Western English traditional folk plays sometimes have a Turk Slaver character, probably from the Barbary Coast Slave raids on Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset in the early 17th Century by "Sallee Rovers" (where the English were the slaves captured and taken by force to North Africa). This character is usually played using a black face (or brownface).
Throughout the country, the Turkish (Saracen) Knight character (probably harkening back to the crusades during the Medieval era) in traditional English Mummers' plays was played in blackface (or brownface), though less often in the modern era.
Various forms of folk dance in England, including Morris dancing, have traditionally used blackface; its continuing use by some troupes is controversial.
Molly Dancers and Cornish Guise Dancers, traditionally associated with midwinter festivals, often use blacked faces as a disguise. The Molly dancers wished to avoid being identified by the landlords and petty nobles, who were also usually the local magistrates, when they played tricks on those who failed to be generous enough in their gifts to the dancers. The Guise dancers (disguised dancers) also wished to avoid any punishment for their mocking songs embarrassing the local gentry.
Some traditional mummers groups perform the English folk play "St George and the Turkish Knight" with the entire cast, including Father Christmas, and all the white, English characters in mummers' blackface.
In Bacup, Lancashire, the Britannia Coconut Dancers wear black faces. Some[who?] believe the origin of this dance can be traced back to the influx of Cornish miners to northern England, and the black face relates to the dirty blackened faces associated with mining.
In Cornwall, several Mummer's Day celebrations are still held; these used to be sometimes known as "Darkie Day" (a corruption of the original "Darking Day", referring to the darkening or painting of the faces) and involved local residents dancing through the streets in blackface to musical accompaniment. The tradition blacking-up for Mummer's Day is pagan in origin and goes back to the days of the Celts. When minstrel songs were part of British popular culture, at least one festival (Padstow) used such songs, including the words "He's gone where the good niggers go".
The traditional wedding day chimney sweep, that is considered to be good luck, sometimes has a partially blacked up face to suggest smears of soot. This depends on the performer but it was, and still is, unusual to have a full blackening. Though the complete covered "greyface" is known.
These two traditions, of chimney sweep and folk dancing, coincide in the sometimes lost traditions of (chimney) sweepers festivals. Medway Council supports the Sweeps' Festival, revived in 1981, now claimed to be "the largest festival of Morris dance in the world". It takes place in Rochester around May Day and features a Jack in the Green character. Originally the chimney sweeps were little boys, and they used the day to beg for money, until this child labour was outlawed.
On Guy Fawkes' Day 2017, participants in the Lewes Bonfire, the best known of the Sussex bonfire tradition, decided to abandon black face paint in their depiction of Zulu warriors.
On July 3, 2020, the Joint Morris Organisation announced that all three constituent bodies, representing the vast majority of Morris Dancing in the United Kingdom, would be actively moving to eliminate the use of full-face black makeup from their membership.
The Black and White Minstrel Show was a hugely popular British light entertainment show that ran for twenty years on BBC prime-time television. Beginning in 1958, it was a weekly variety show which presented traditional American minstrel and country songs, as well as show tunes and music hall numbers, lavishly costumed. It was also a successful stage show which ran for ten years from 1962 to 1972 at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London. This was followed by tours of UK seaside resorts, together with Australia and New Zealand.
Due to its employment of artists wearing blackface, the show was seen by UK anti-racist groups such as the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination, to be both racist and perpetuating ethnic stereotypes.
Soviet Russian writers and illustrators sometimes inadvertently perpetuated stereotypes about other nations that are now viewed as harmful. For example, a Soviet children's book or cartoon might innocently contain a representation of black people that would be perceived as unquestionably offensive by the modern-day western standards, such as bright red lips and other exaggerated features, unintentionally similar to the portrayal of blacks in American minstrel shows. Soviet artists "did not quite understand the harm of representing black people in this way, and continued to employ this method, even in creative productions aimed specifically at critiquing American race relations".
In 1910, the ballet Sheherazade, choreographed by Michael Fokine, premiered in Russia. The story behind the ballet was inspired by a tone poem written by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov. In the ballet the leading female character, Zobeide, is seduced by a Golden Slave. The dancer who portrayed the Golden Slave, the first being Vaslav Nijinsky, would have his face and body painted brown for the performance. This was done to show the audience the slave was of a darker complexion. Later in 1912, Fokine choreographed the ballet Petrushka, which centers around three puppets that come to life, Petrushka, the Ballerina, and the Moor. When the ballet premiered, the part of the Moor, first danced by Alexander Orlov, was performed in full blackface. The Moor puppet is first seen onstage playing with a coconut, which he attempts to open with his scimitar. His movements are apelike. The Moor seduces the Ballerina and later savagely cuts off the head of the puppet Petrushka. When Petrushka is performed today, the part of the Moor is still done in full blackface, or occasionally blueface. The blackface has not been publicly criticized in the ballet community. Black and brownface appear in other ballets today, such as La Bayadère and Othello, in the United States and Europe.
The early Soviet political cartoon Black and White, created in 1932, managed to avoid the blackface style, confronting "precisely that paternalistic model of the ever-passive black subject awaiting enlightenment from the Comintern". The cartoon integrated "an avant-garde-influenced visual aesthetic with images derived from the many newspaper illustrations, cartoons, and posters of American racism that appeared in Soviet Russia at this time".
Soviet theater and movie directors rarely had access to black actors, and so resorted to using black makeup when dictated by the character's descent. Soviet actors portrayed black people mostly by darkening the skin and occasionally adjusting the hair style, without accentuating or exaggerating their facial features. In particular, Vladimir Vysotsky performed the role of Abram Petrovich Gannibal, an 18th-century Russian general of African origin, in the 1976 Soviet film How Czar Peter the Great Married Off His Moor, while Larisa Dolina performed the role of Cuban singer Clementine Fernandez in the 1983 film We Are from Jazz. The 1956 Soviet film adaptation of Othello received the Best Director Award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
Blackface minstrelsy was the conduit through which African-American and African-American-influenced music, comedy, and dance first reached the white American mainstream. It played a seminal role in the introduction of African-American culture to world audiences.
Many of country's earliest stars, such as Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills, were veterans of blackface performance. More recently, the American country music television show Hee Haw (1969–1993) had the format and much of the content of a minstrel show, albeit without blackface.
The immense popularity and profitability of blackface were testaments to the power, appeal, and commercial viability of not only black music and dance, but also of black style. This led to cross-cultural collaborations, as Giddins writes; but the often ruthless exploitation of African-American artistic genius, as well – by other, white performers and composers; agents; promoters; publishers; and record company executives.
While blackface in the literal sense has played only a minor role in entertainment in recent decades, various writers see it as epitomizing an appropriation and imitation of black culture that continues today. As noted above, Strausbaugh sees blackface as central to a longer tradition of "displaying Blackness". "To this day," he writes: "Whites admire, envy and seek to emulate such supposed innate qualities of Blackness as inherent musicality, natural athleticism, the composure known as 'cool' and superior sexual endowment," a phenomenon he views as part of the history of blackface. For more than a century, when white performers have wanted to appear sexy, (like Elvis or Mick Jagger); or streetwise, (like Eminem); or hip, (like Mezz Mezzrow); they often have turned to African-American performance styles, stage presence and personas. Pop culture referencing and cultural appropriation of African-American performance and stylistic traditions is a tradition with origins in blackface minstrelsy.
This "browning", à la Richard Rodriguez, of American and world popular culture began with blackface minstrelsy. It is a continuum of pervasive African-American influence which has many prominent manifestations today, among them the ubiquity of the cool aesthetic and hip hop culture.