International fans petition to end the use of blackface on Korean television
International fans of Korean television are fed up with offensive racial depictions in Korean media, and they're asking for change. A recent petition on Change.org requests that the major broadcasting companies in South Korea specifically ban the use of blackface in their productions.
"Blackface" is the practice of using dark makeup to represent a black person. It was particularly popular in the 19th century in American minstrel shows, where performers would paint their faces and exaggerate their lips to caricature black characters. While the use of blackface makeup is no longer acceptable in many countries around the world, it continues to pop up on Korean television.
For example, a 2011 skit on Saturday Night Korea featured blackface makeup on several actresses pretending to portray the Dream Girls. In 2012, MBC producers apologized after the show Quiz That Changes the World featured an offensive blackface comedy sequence. In spite of these apologies, the practice continues. Just this year, the sketch comedy show Gag Concert has included blackface makeup in not one, but two skits.
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In the petition, petition author Ami Jean writes, "Blackface, unfortunately, has allowed privileged people the opportunity to demean and dehumanize black people or dark-skinned people through racist caricatures and harmful stereotypes under the guise of comedy and humor. Through blackface, performers have routinely characterized black people as savage, uncouth, primitive, unsanitary, unintelligent, and belligerent; the same descriptors used for wild animals."
She later concludes, "We ask for the right to continue to express our love for your culture and entertainment without feeling disrespected and saddened and inferior because of the color of our skin." The petition calls for a complete end to the use of blackface on Korean television.
At this point, there hasn't been any official response to the petition, though we hope it will raise awareness in Korea and end this practice once and for all.
You can go here to read or sign the full petition.