I really messed up this Halloween. Rather than assuming all of the children trick or treating at my house were African American, I wrongfully accused them all of being white people dressed up in blackface.
The evening began innocently enough. I had poured my candy into my pumpkin-shaped bowl and the Monster Mash was playing on repeat. I put on my favorite devil costume and draped cobwebs all over the front porch. I was all geared up for another Halloween without hurtful racial stereotypes. Then, the doorbell rang an I saw what I thought was a seven year old astronaut made up in full blackface.
Though now it is obvious to me in retrospect he was an African American child and the blackface was his actual black face, at the time, I was entirely convinced and horrified beyond belief. “What is wrong with you?” I said. I dragged him by the ear into my home and lectured him on the painful history of blackface. While I wish I listened to his pleas of “stop doing this!” and “I'm black!” I was blinded by a righteous anger and a desire to be an ally to my dark-skinned brothers and sisters. I should have suspected something was up when my attempts to wash the paint of his face failed miserably. When I tossed the boy out of my house without so much as a fun-sized Hershey, I was proud of myself for standing up against the evils of a minstrel theater that dates back to the early 15th century. If I had known it was just a little black boy, I never would have let him leave without several Almond Joys.
I wish the story ended there, but later that night, I completely lost my cool I saw what I assumed were the most racist Ninja Turtles of all time, but who obviously were just four African-American tweens. I was incensed at what these pizza-loving biogts were doing to the black community. Even the KKK would not be as bold as these young hate mongers. Not only were they all done up in blackface, but their hands were painted in blackface as well. Yes, with the benefit of hindsight I now see that blackface hands are not a real thing. But at the time, I screamed at them for being cowards and threw 3 Musketeers and Krackles at their heads. I was furious this was happening in 2015. I made them all watch the 2014 NAACP Image Awards I had recorded on my DVR as I called all of their parents to come pick them up.
When the parents showed, I was shocked and mortified to find them dressed in full blackface as well. I don't know why I didn't think of them as normal black families. I honestly believed my neighborhood had become overrun with intolerance. It's embarrassing to admit, but I thought their blackface was so realistic and perfectly shaded that the only logical explanation was that Jim Henson productions had funded and created their blackface as part of some sort of campaign to spread prejudice, hate, and fear. “You're the real enemy, Jim Henson!” I screamed until my voice was hoarse. I now see that the looks of confusion on their faces were genuine, and not feigned ignorance to throw me off the scent of an international racist conspiracy. I now understand that I should not have punched them unconscious while singing Beyonce lyrics. I know that no apology can undo their hospital bills, but I sincerely hope that the basket of peanut M and M's I sent to their houses can be the first step in a very illuminating conversation about race. Some people have black on their face, and some have egg on theirs.