Duluth roiled by two recent blackface incidents [VIDEO]
At left, two blackfaced Duluth women during their racist YouTube rant; at right, Pizza Luce employee Adam Stoningpot wears blackface at an employee party.
YouTube screengrab (left); Facebook image via Duluth News Tribune (right)
In recent weeks, video of two young Duluth women wearing blackface and uttering absurdly offensive racial slurs went viral (the footage can be seen below the jump).
Just a week later, a photo of a Pizza Luce employee wearing blackfare at a Halloween party has surfaced.
It's been a surprisingly racially charged year in Duluth, as news of the two most recent incidents come on the heels of an Obama doll being hung from a billboard on election day and controversy about the city's "It's hard to see racism when you're white" billboard campaign.
Here's some context about blackface and its racial implications from Wikipedia:
Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, in which performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the "happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation" or the "dandified coon"... Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right, until it ended in the United States with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
The original version of the Duluth blackface video has been removed from YouTube, but it has been reposted a number of times. It was actually filmed a year ago but only recently went viral. In it, two women -- Rachel Cooper, a current UMD student, and Jessica Heid, a former student -- say things like, "I got the big 'ol lips... we are true negros, man" and "I need some fried fuckin' chicken... We kinda look like apes right now." Here's the footage:
Cooper has since reached out to the local chapter of the NAACP and expressed regret about the video. She's even inquired about how she can help the group, the Duluth News Tribune reports.
Days after the video went viral, Adam Stoningpot, an overnight cleaner at Pizza Luce, showed up at an employee costume at the Technology Village bar and restaurant wearing blackface. His intention was to provoke a discussion about race, according to the Tribune.
Stoningpot's costume offended a number of co-workers and patrons and prompted some to leave. He was later disciplined by Luce for the incident but not fired.
A group of community activists wrote to Pizza Luce's Twin Cities-based management demanding an explanation and asking about what the restaurant will do to make sure nothing like the Stoningpot incident happens again.
The Tribune provides information about how JJ Haywood, CEO of Luce, responded:
Haywood, who is African American, said she intends to meet with [the activists] by the end of the week.
"Let me assure you that this incident was taken seriously by management at both Pizza Luce Duluth and by me as the top leader and one of the owners of Pizza Luce," Haywood e-mailed Banks.
"As an African-American woman, I absolutely agree that it is shocking and unacceptable for someone to don blackface in this day and age."
Duluth is 90 percent white and just two percent African-American, so the string of racial controversies the city has experienced this year is somewhat surprising. Then again, the city was the site of one of the ugliest incidents of racism in Minnesota history. In 1920, rumors that a group of African American circus workers had raped a teenage girl prompted a mob to lynch three of them. A subsequent examination of the girl found no evidence of sexual assault.
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