Social media users are accusing a 20-year-old woman of having a blackface look after her skin color changed because of years of self-tanning. According to the New York Post, Savannah Grace has been using tanning beds for more than two years and uses fake tan before going to bed.
“I love tanning and being outside; I tan after workouts, before bed, in the mornings, I love the way I look when I tan,” she told NeedToKnow.co.uk.
Though the nursing assistant has been sharing photos of herself on social media, the reactions have been mixed, as some users have asked her to stop self-tanning. “I try not to read comments as much as possible,” she said.
However, the 20-year-old was compelled to disable comments on one of her viral TikTok posts after receiving a barrage of comments accusing her of donning blackface. “Not black face … with not an ounce of remorse or even an attempt to understand how wrong she is?? Throw the whole human out,” a user wrote.
“For you not to delete the video after being called out for blackface is kinda wild,” another user commented. “Girl you are Dorito colored,” a different user also added.
Savannah, however, said she’s not deterred by the backlash. “There have been many negative comments, but I do what makes me happy either way,” she said.
The History of Black Face
According to a brief on the subject on BET, blackface grew out of Minstrel shows starting in the 1830s. The act involved white actors darkening their faces with shoe polish or greasepaint, painting exaggerated red lips with makeup, and acting as stereotypically dumb, foolish, or dangerous Black characters – that is the “happy darky on the plantation” or the “dandified coon”. The larger purpose of these shows was to entertain white slave owners, who were humored by acts mocking slaves and free Blacks during the 19th century.
Among minstrel show ‘pioneers’ was Thomas “Daddy” Rice, a white actor who blackened his face and danced a jig for his character Jim Crow in 1830.
From the small stage, blackface made its way to the big screen where some performers like Bert Williams, Al Jolson, Freeman Gosden, and Charles Correll, who created “Amos N’ Andy” made it widely popular. These white men also performed in “dialect” or “African American English.”
Minstrelsy was at its peak between 1830 and 1890; and when black artists were finally allowed to perform publicly in the late 19th century, they were obliged to wear blackface (no matter their hue) and reenact stereotypes of their time; some, however, found ways to subvert this.
Blackface only went out of vogue during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. However, by then, it had already caught wind around the world, especially in many Asian and European countries where actors still put on the face to perform.
Today, wearing blackface in the U.S. is almost sacrilege. It is met with great criticism because it hearkens to a painful past of slavery, segregation – Jim Crow, and discrimination against Black people; reinforcing stereotypes about Black people that are not true.