Yes, black face is racist. Altering your skin color to play a character of another race is racist. In the same way hiring a black actor to play a black character is racist.
You want to portray a character as black , so you hire a black actor to play the black character. But why would you insist on having a black character, you racist? Don’t you know that only black people are fit to create and portray black characters?
Makeup is just dress up. If you wanted to portray black people in a racist way, you could hire black people to star in the most racist minstrel act without makeup, and it would be racist even though the black people are real black people without makeup.
In the same vein, if a non-black actor wanted to act out their favorite scene from the Shawshank redemption as Morgan Freeman’s original black character, said actor using makeup to look black should be perfectly inoffensive, in fact it should be viewed as a sign of respect and admiration.
Black face is offensive the same reason Nigger is offensive, because both expressions have been utilized by racists before. However, the use of either expression is never inevitably racist.
Literally speaking, Black Person, African American and Nigger refer to the same thing. To be perfectly consistent, any reason to consider Nigger racist is good enough to consider Black Person and African American racist as well. Don’t think African American is racist? What if I said “He is a criminal because he is African American”? What if I said “Niggers should not be discriminated against”? If the speaker is a racist, no amount of euphemism can conceal the damage of the spoken meaning. If the speaker is a non racist expressing a non-prejudiced opinion, attacking him for not using euphemisms is counter-intuitive and petty, to say the least.
This is why the Yale controversy over Halloween costumes is so troubling. Notoriously ironic is the perfect term to describe any expression made by artists and college students. Being in college is about challenging social boundaries, and that is exactly what people electing to engage in provocative costumes are doing. Remember that time masturbation was not the cause of blindness? Remember how four letter words did not cause you to become a bad person? Remember how smearing your face in blackness wasn’t the cause of the enslavement and poor treatment of black people?
We have created a society where Hugh Laurie is allowed to portray an American but Leonardo DiCaprio is not allowed to portray Detective James Carter, all in the name of cultural sensitivity. In a non-retarded world, making yourself look black would be no different than putting on a Darth Vader costume or dying your hair. It is simply appearance, whether the message you send is good or bad does not depend on it. Strangely, when Sacha Baron Cohen – a dirty Jew – portrayed the Islamic dictator in Borat, most people seemed to get his satirical message and there were no cries of “Islamface”. That tolerance is evidence that dressing and acting as the stereotype of a demographic other than your own is not inherently harmful, it all depends on the actual, whole message. There is a difference between white people portraying happy black slaves in minstrel shows, and Trey Parker voicing a random black character in South Park.
“Of course, that being said I would never put on black face or scream racial profanity on the streets because I don’t want to get shot.”
See how I managed to be racist without using a single racial slur in the previous sentence? From that sentence, if you were smart you would infer that the speaker thinks black people are violent psychopaths willing to commit murder just because somebody used an expression that offended them, and be highly disgusted that the speaker would suggest black people are violent psychopaths. But if I said that to a politically correct crowd, they would just nod, satisfied that I know my place and the limits of my freedoms.