My Take: Why Is Blackface Back Again?

If you knew the hurtful history of blackface, and its ties to Richmond, you'd know what not to ever do.



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Let the show trials begin

An apt comparison: Bopst is indeed about as racist as Mark Twain, who made the country’s inhumanity toward blacks the central theme of one of the central novels of American literature, who published the life story of a former slave he was in awe of, who paid for blacks to get a higher education.... But a life of writing and acting against racism gets invalidated because apparently Twain said minstrel shows were funny. Nor will there be any mercy for Bopst, who has spent decades promoting diversity through his concert bookings and his reviews, actively adding color to the tapestry of the Richmond music scene. His unforgivable sin is that he tried to be ironic – what’s more, at a costume party, in a carnival atmosphere: turns out that is hardly an appropriate setting for trying to turn stereotypes upside down. So yes, let’s deprive Chris of all his jobs, force some more self-lacerating apologies out of him, and starve him and his family into penance; and while we’re at it, let’s ban Twain/or re-ban Twain; and we can also blacklist Scott Joplin, the “King of Ragtime,” and his music, since he played in minstrel shows. All forms of irony, it goes without saying, must be made criminal acts. There will be no dancing in church! If we really want to tackle the problems in our community, we must get serious about making snap judgments of individuals based not on decades of behavior, but on isolated comments, a costume worn for one night, any slip up that can bring on a satisfying, self-righteous feeding frenzy.

Michael Wigglesworth more than 4 years ago

Feed them to the Lions

I agree with Let the Show Trials Begin.
This whole thing makes me sick; but what makes me the sickest is the witch-hunt, McCathy era attitude we have. The ironic thing is that this mob mentality has turned into a lynch mob of sorts. Stones are being cast, people are being thrown under the bus and it is a feeding frenzy. It is disgusting, all this self-righteousness; far more egregious than this serious lapse of judgement. If anyone says anything that rings of common sense or disgust at the "mob", they too, are then thrown under the bus and fed to the lions. Lives are being ruined; good, good people like Tim Laxton who is kind, and compassionate, and happened to just say "stop whining; you listen to music with the N word" that is racist. And Everyone can experience racism; I certainly have. I don't believe in "reverse racism"--no such thing. I do feel there is institutional racism that still needs to be addressed, and there is institutional sexism (which I have experienced, the institutional and garden variety), and there are just a whole bunch of ism's in general. Most immigrants (Irish, Italian, Greek, Jewish, Polish, Hispanic, Asian) have all experienced racism coming into this country. Not one of us is any better or different than the other. Everyone, including full breed caucasians has experienced something because of who they are; it is the nature of being human. The point is to continue to grow, and love, and learn. But this whole thing just reeks of self-righteousness. The reason we will never be able to have real dialogue is because we have swung so far into the politically correct zone that no-body can truly listen or hear. The greater majority seems to be more concerned with their thin skins. I am just so saddened that so many lives are being ruined in this maelstrom. I do hope we have our typical fifteen minute attention span and that this passes very soon.
I feel so many of these people condemning would fit right in at a Trump rally. I am sorry the irony is lost on you.
And by the way...I am a total and complete mutt, and though I do not agree with most of human history, or those incidents that have tainted my own ancestral line, or those who have committed sins against my line, I do believe in forgiveness and letting go. I do believe that you cannot whitewash huge swaths of history, I do feel you can "clear" it with right intention, but I feel we are an evolving species, spiritually, i hope, and that human rights is also new and evolving. I think history is fascinating and I hold nothing against anyone. It happened and we learn and we grow, but we don't continue to be the victim and punish one another over it.
For instance, the Trail of Tears was an awful, awful thing and my great-great-great grandmother was on it; I used to get very upset, and now I think I am just a part of history, and that's kind of cool.
Yeah, crazy to leave the house like that. Now let it go and let live.
Or you are no better.

lisa weddick more than 4 years ago

Re: Feed them to the Lions

Regardless of whether one thinks punishment fits crime, he brought it on himself for being so clueless. Who the hell thinks blackface is OK in 2016. As for Balliceaux, same thing. They could have gone the Style Weekly route and just apologized and said "He no longer works here" or something similar instead of the ludicrous low light defense. But even as I write this they still haven't done it right. All parties should have owned up from the jump. (And there is more to the story than what's out there to own up to) Too late and it's on them, period. Lessons learned. (hopefully)

Billy more than 4 years ago

adding diversity really?

If you regard retarded angry privileged white boy 3 chord poop diversity

Rather helping to use and dumb down

Daniel Trainer more than 4 years ago

Chris Bopst

Chris Bopst has always been a egomaniac douche bag. Glad he proved me right after all these years. So many Richmond musicians ride on this false "rockstar" idea that they have and think they can get away with anything. Chris always has been and always will be hipster trash.

Russ Bissette more than 4 years ago


How come none of the commenters are discussing what really matters such as all the blacks in Richmond that have been murdered this year? Priorites anyone?

JiggleButt more than 4 years ago

re: Priorities

Cause it's not relevant to this situation perhaps?

Billy more than 4 years ago


How do you take a person seriously who goes by that name on a post questing our ethics? I was focusing on the story at hand. To assume we are not aware of or care aboit other issues plaguing our city is assumptive and wrong.

Tracy Wilson more than 4 years ago

VCU band went home Saturday night

The bandleader got offended, gave his student band members the choice to stay and perform or leave. They had all got it together to perform; all were on time; had their instruments. They left without performing because a member of the balliceaux staff was in blackface. I know a member of the band. This really happened. Balliceaux knew they had a problem pretty early. I guess they had a lot of booze to sell.

Rick more than 4 years ago

Re: VCU band went home

So this blows the "we didn't see cause of the dim light " bullshit even farther out of the water. Please post this on the Balliceaux "dim light" post. Liars.

Billy more than 4 years ago


I am not perfect, I have no desire to judge him. He has to live with his actions, isn't that enough.

Christy more than 4 years ago

Opportunity for social justice volunteering

I hope that as a result of this, we can, like Guy suggests, find some opportunities to support local social justice organizations. I think this is an opportunity not just for Chris's growth, but for the growth of all of us in this community together, to identify and recognize how systemic racism affects us all, and work specifically and concretely, towards ending that systemic injustice. I hope that through this, we can find a way to identify and promote, donate and volunteer to, our own local social justice organizations. I'd love to see an edit to this article that shares some resources for all of us to investigate and support, in light of this awful event. Is there a path to undoing the harm, for Chris? Let's encourage his progress towards that path of forgiveness and healing. Let's encourage that for all of us, together. Peace to all.

Neighbor more than 4 years ago

Anyone for First Amendment Training?

Who was really hurt by this other than Bobst and the restaurant? Okay, he showed poor judgment but was any black person as traumatized by seeing Bobst as Bobst was by the realization of what he had got himself into? Nor are black people the ones who typically make a big fuss over this unless some foundation is paying them to make a fuss over it. Ethnic stereotypes for the purpose of comedy or social satire are still quite common e.g. in Sarah Silverman's work. As to which ones are the most offensive, that would seem to depend on who is judging. I won't wait for Silverman to have an epiphany and fire herself. Being outraged by someone's politically incorrect behavior has become a ritual and a form of "virtue-signaling" by which nervous, submissive citizens are made to prove to some invisible Judge their right to exist. This syndrome is harmful to a democracy, where the right to be wrong is essential.

peter more than 4 years ago


Thank you for this thoughtful response. I do however think it is important to note that Chris was not fired from Balliceaux, he resigned. The restaurant posted one defense of his actions and do to a mass outcry online at their totally inappropriate reaction, they removed the post. They have since posted a new response which is perhaps even more embarrassing and takes no ownership of their failure to send him home the moment he walked in looking as he did. They actually blamed "dim lighting" and a "busy atmosphere" for not being aware of his costume. I can promise you as a person who knows this small space well as both a musician and DJ who has played their often over the years, this is the most ludicrous statement and is totally inexcusable. Busy and low lighting yes, but impossible to see the very unfortunate decision of an employee to come to work in blackface, no. I am horrified by all of this but at least Chris is trying to take ownership of his shameful mistake, Balliceaux however is an accomplice as far as I am concerned. How Chris made it out of the house and managed to work an entire evening at a busy bar/venue is a mystery that I feel like I will never be able to solve. It both baffles and horrifies me.

Tracy Wilson more than 4 years ago

Argumentum ad baculum

"progressive as we may think, and that we have so much work to do. Don’t deny; just get to work."

My concern here is the article says very little in the way of solutions. The statement that "We need to join organizations that work to overcome bias and discrimination in our communities." is rather vague and useless advice. Perhaps you should extend an invitation to this man if you feel he truly needs it. Wouldn't that be more effective than the public shaming and cyber bullying that I've seen so far? Would you have him in your organization? If its aim is to truly develop cultural understanding and sensitivity, and this man is lacking in that, then he should be top of the list for admission, no?

I can't help but think about how his career is destroyed, his friends are either forced to abandon him or be torn to shreds alongside. It's hard to imagine that decades of work could be destroyed in an eight-hour shift (or however long he worked that night). For as long google exists, any time he seeks employment, he will be identified, and blacklisted. I shudder to think that he's been forsaken by society, that, at best, he can live out the rest of his life as a cautionary tale. The current doctrine seems to be "make and example out of them" and that is a terrifying and dangerous way to operate.

I don't know this guy, there's every possibility that he is some kind of monster. Maybe if I knew him I'd say he deserved all this and more. But assuming he's not, assuming that he's not an inherently bad person, wouldn't it be more progressive and productive to educate and not exile? It's easy for to argue over values, it's even easier to assign blame and mete out punishment, but if we're serious about positive growth we need to look for solutions and act with compassion.

Guy more than 4 years ago

Should Bobst be made an unperson?

A lot of art is designed to be disturbing. Making such a fuss about this is unhealthy and unbecoming a free society. I enjoyed Amos 'n Andy as a white kid and so did Professor Henry Louis Gates as a black kid, and, according to Prof. Gates, so did every black person he knew. We no longer allow neutral or even affectionate caricatures of blacks but we allow even hostile caricatures of many other groups. Who makes the decisions as to which caricatures absolutely cannot be tolerated? Not blacks, surely. Rather the explosion of outrage and punishment is a dominance signal for politically correct whites by which they reduce lower status whites to a posture of fear and submissiveness. Rather than "re-educate" Mark Twain perhaps we should let him re-educate us.

peter more than 4 years ago

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