Blackface costumes ‘sheer ignorance’
HARCOURTS staff members filmed wearing blackface and afro or beaded wigs at the company’s annual national conference highlights ‘‘sheer and utter ignorance’’, according to an Auckland professor.
The real estate agency’s shindig held at Auckland’s SkyCity Convention Centre featured a networking party on Tuesday night in which agents were urged to dress as their favourite sports person or team.
A video from the event with Harcourts branding was uploaded to Facebook by photo booth company Ouisnapnz on Wednesday, showing eight or nine people who appeared to be dressed as a Cameroon sports team and wearing black wigs, matching t-shirts, red, yellow and green sweatbands around their heads and their faces covered in black paint.
It is understood a Harcourts real estate agent operates Ouisnapnz.
Blackface is a form of makeup used predominantly by nonblack performers to represent a caricature or stereotype of a black person. Originating in the United States in the early 19th century, blackface was used in minstrel shows, which featured comic skits, music and dancing to mock people of African descent.
Harcourts chief executive Chris Kennedy confirmed a group arrived at the event dressed as the missing Cameroon Commonwealth Games team.
‘‘It was brought to the attention of this group that some party attendees were offended by the black makeup they were wearing,’’ Kennedy said in a statement. ‘‘As there was no intention to offend they were responsive to the concerns and left’’.
But that excuse is ‘‘not good enough,’’ according to Camille Nakhid, associate professor in social studies at Auckland University of Technology.
Nakhid said people wearing blackface highlights the ‘‘sheer and utter ignorance of people’’.
‘‘The fact that people don’t have any empathy, and don’t want to engage in a conversation or to be knowledgeable about blackface just shows a sense of entitlement,’’ Nakhid said.
She was ‘‘sick and tired’’ of hearing people say they did not mean to offend.
‘‘These would be people who are literate enough to know what is going on in the world, who read the media, and still they persist. They know blackface is derogatory, they know it’s demeaning to people.’’
Though people were often called out for wearing blackface, she said, there was rarely any fallout. That reinforced the idea that what they were doing was OK.
David Seymour practises his dance moves with partner Amelia McGregor.
The Harcourts staff dressed as a Cameroon sports team.