LEE’S SUMMIT, Missouri (KRON/CNN/WTVO) – After sharing a blackface Halloween costume on Facebook, a Missouri nurse is now out of a job.
Blackface started in the 1800s in American theater and eventually moved to film. The history was detailed in the Spike Lee film, “Bamboozled.”
Matthew Osborn teaches students at UMKC about the history of minstrel shows that used blackface.
“It involved white men donning blackface and performing exaggerated caricatures of African-American characters,” Osborn said. “It was meant to denigrate and lampoon African-American people, often in settings that were meant to show black people in a position of servitude.”
On Monday, someone told St. Luke’s Health System about a photo of one of its nurses at the east location in Lee’s Summit, dressed in blackface.
She’s supposed to be Beyonce and the man next to her is supposed to be Jay-Z.
A picture of the same woman from 2009 showed her dressed up as a member of Destiny’s Child.
“The fact that this racist behavior persists is simply an indication that our racist history is not passed, basically,” Osborn said.
St. Luke’s released a statement, saying in part they started investigating immediately when they were made aware of the photo.
The statement went on to say, “We can confirm that this individual is no longer a St. Luke’s employee. St. Luke’s is deeply committed to our culture of diversity and inclusion.”
“Individuals who dress up in costumes, as far as I’m concerned, that is not the way to go,” Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center Executive Director Chiluba Musonda said. “It shows a lack of concern. It shows some ignorance there and a lack of understanding of history as well.”
Dr. Makini King, a psychologist in UMKC Department of Diversity and Inclusion, says the photo of the nurse should be used as a teaching moment and encourage people to get to know each other better and to educate themselves on our nation’s history.
“It can’t just be punish and then the conversation is over,” Dr. Makini said. “There has to be the back and forth, the learning that takes place. That’s uncomfortable, but I feel like that’s one of the ways that we get better.”
Another case is talk show host Megyn Kelly’s recent comments defending the use of blackface when dressing as a Halloween character lead to her show being canceled by NBC.
However, entertainers such as Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel have darkened their skin to appear as famous African-American entertainers, without causing controversy. NBC anchor Lester Holt also appeared in “whiteface” to appear as singer Susan Doyle.