Professor Comments on Virginia Blackface Scandals

By Dan Verderosa, February 12, 2019
Donathan Brown tells the U.S. News & World Report that recent revelations show race still matters.
A white, Greek style building with columns

The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia.

(Photo by Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock)

Donathan Brown, an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Ithaca College, is featured in a U.S. News & World Report story about revelations that government leaders in Virginia dressed in blackface.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring both recently admitted to the past use of blackface, a racist practice where white individuals wear black or brown makeup to impersonate black people. The origins of blackface can be traced to mid to late 19th century minstrel shows where white actors used it to mock enslaved and free black people and portray them as inferior to whites.

In the article, Brown says that blackface was still acceptable in many white communities just decades ago, when Northam and Herring say they used it. He argues that while Virginia’s politics have generally become more liberal, and the state voted for Barack Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, there are still regions where people hold onto the cultural practices of the Old South.

“Race still matters. We are not a post-racial society,” Brown told U.S. News.