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‘What is racist?’ Megyn Kelly’s ‘blackface’ comments spark backlash

‘What is racist?’ Megyn Kelly’s ‘blackface’ comments spark backlash
NBC host Megyn Kelly prompted racial controversy when she claimed that dressing up in ‘blackface’ for Halloween is no big deal, as long as you’re playing a character.

In a discussion that started out on universities pressuring students into wearing ‘culturally appropriate’ Halloween costumes, Kelly quickly transitioned into defending blackface - minstrel-style makeup widely considered offensive and racist.

“What is racist?” Kelly wondered aloud. “You truly do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface at Halloween or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween.”

“Back when I was a kid, that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as like a character,” she said.

Kelly then brought up ‘Real Housewives of New York City star Luann de Lesseps’ controversial decision to dress as soul singer Diana Ross earlier this year as an example of innocent blackface. De Lesseps’ costume featured dark brown makeup and an oversize afro wig, and was slated at the time for cultural insensitivity.

"People said that was racist and I don’t know, I felt like, who doesn’t love Diana Ross? She wanted to look like Diana Ross for one day. I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween,” said an exasperated Kelly.

“I can't keep up with the number of people that we're offending just by being normal people,” she continued.

Needless to say, Kelly’s comments caused further offence. “Being a race is not a character” argued NPR contributor Danny Deraney.

Among the hundreds of comments were calls for NBC to fire Kelly, but the network has yet to comment. Tuesday’s show is not the first time Kelly has stirred racial controversy, however. In her time at Fox News, Kelly, for some reason, once claimed that Santa Claus and Jesus were white, in response to an equally ridiculous Slate article calling for a race-neutral Santa to replace the traditional rosy-cheeked Saint Nick.

While universities across the US have been ridiculed for their efforts to combat ‘cultural appropriation’ and stamp out ‘problematic’ Halloween costumes, outright blackface is almost universally considered a taboo, and has not been seen in American movies or television since the civil rights reforms of the 1960s.

Nevertheless, the practice is alive and well today in the Netherlands, where revellers dress up as ‘Zwarte Piet’ or ‘Black Pete’ every December. Black Pete is usually portrayed by white Dutchmen and women in blackface with exaggerated red lips and gold jewelry, and is the assistant to Sinterklaas – a Dutch version of Santa Claus.

Black Pete has been criticized by the United Nations and ignites a now-tired racism versus tradition debate in Dutch media every year.

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