Let’s Talk: ‘I had no idea blackface could be racist’

A mother in Perth, Western Australia says she has been too afraid to leave her house after she was trolled
Let's Talk

A mother in Perth, Western Australia says she has been too afraid to leave her house after she was trolled online for painting her nine-year-old son’s skin dark-brown so he could pretend to be his idol, West Coast Eagles AFL player Nic Naitanui.

Dressed as the football player as part of the nation’s Book Week celebrations, the mother has told Channel 7 news in Perth her son’s costume was deemed ‘racist’ and he is too upset to attend school.

copyright Facebook
copyright Facebook

The mother has faced a social media firestorm for the outfit, but says she had no idea of the racist connotations of ‘balckfacing’.

“All I wanted to do was be my favourite football player because I dream of becoming him,” the nine-year-old says.

“I didn’t think it would be taken as an insult. It wasn’t mean to be like taken that way,” the mother says, acknowledging that she was “a little worried about painting him” because there were “so many politically correct extremists that days”. However, she feels that to have only sent her son in a wig and the football gear would have made it hard for people to know who he was meant to be.

“He just wanted to be his idol and that was it,” she says.

The term ‘blackface’ stretches back to a time in the 19th century when white performers would apply make-up to their faces to appear black. It was later seen as offensive because people deemed it promoted racist caricatures.

“The roots of the idea around the blackface is heavily tainted by racism,” says professor Len Collard, an indigenous elder and University of Western Australia researcher.

However, Liberal backbencher Peter Abetz has leapt to the mother’s defence. He said it was a shame that an innocent boy wanting to look exactly like his hero had been politicised.

“There are all different nationalities in that school and the kids don’t think about race,” Abetz says. “I think we are taking away the innocence of childhood if we try to read political things into something like a child dressing up as a particular character for Book Week.”

And what of the footballer, Nic Naitanui?

He sent out a tweet saying that he didn’t believe the mother had any intention to cause harm, and just wanted her kid to be ‘Nic Nat’.

What do you think — was the boy just honouring his hero? Or was there racial motivation behind the action? Share your thoughts on this issue with us.

  1. Nic ought to be soooo proud the kid just wants to be like him and appreciate the admiration!
    Just goes to show kids don’t care about the colour of your skin – just you as a person! My kids best friends at school were Aboriginal, Greek, Vietmanese and Russian. Did they care – no – they just liked them and they were friends. They learnt so much from the different cultures that
    Even 30 years later they have an appreciation for.

  2. Jean  

    What if a black kid had dressed up as Marcel Marceau and had his face painted white? Would that be racist? No it wouldn’t! What if the kid wanting to look like Nic Naitanui hadn’t had his face painted black? Someone would have said he couldn’t be like him because he had a white face. Some people just fail to understand what the word “racist” means. It involves words or actions based on a belief that a particular race is superior to another. Clearly not the case here. Sadly, a young boy who had no prejudices based on colour has now been made aware that such nasty attitudes do exist in the adult world. The mother’s only mistake was in dressing her boy up us a footballer instead of a character from a book.

  3. I do think this racist stuff is going too far.The young boy just wanted to be like his hero. Leave the kid alone. NAT KING COLE used to sing with a WHITE FACE , NOTHING was ever said then.I do not see colour,I look for the ;good in man; or woman.

  4. Mel White  

    Should we say that if a child wanted to be like their favourite ninja turtle and got painted green they would be seen as racists against turtles? What if a black child wanted to be painted white would they be seen as racists? I don’t see colour either to me people are people. Political correctness is causing more division between people than togetherness because no one is allowed to have an opinion, or be different and therefore not allowed to be human.

    • Mark  

      Michael Jackson went white in an extreme way, but he also copped a lot of flack over it.

  5. I would have thought after everything that went down last week with Eddie betts last week that the child’s mother shld have thought a bit more about the situation.

  6. Elke  

    My son grew up with not just multiculturalism but varying skin types and in the first few years at school, he never saw the difference and at one time said that an Ethiopian friend look just like a friend from Austria, he never saw the difference, it was really, really nice. Only once they are older say from 8 years onwards they do notice the difference maybe simply because someone told them. Making a fuss about it is actually highlighting racism and kids hear what is said on TV.

  7. Ken Goodman  

    To all the people who have called this family racist’s , look in the mirror, you will see a moron.

  8. Marj Camp  

    What the hell is wrong with people, all I can say is be proud of yourself kid for wanting to look like your hero, political correctness has gone too far. I went dressed to an Artist and Models Ball when I was in my late teens all coated in black greasepaint, we went as natives…….funny thing NOBODY screamed racist because we were having fun.

  9. Pam  

    OMG,! I just smeared vegemite all over a chicken. what have I done. Never heard anything more ridiculous in my life.😳

  10. cee  

    This same POLITICAL CORRECTNESS is killing Australia…. We are not allowed to voice any comments about anything that is threatening our way of life or our freedoms…


    • Peta  

      Absolutely, I agree wholeheartedly. Australians are being told what to do and think by the minority.

  11. Don Lerwiis  

    Political correctness retaliation week/month/year is fast approaching. P/C
    has become a stampede of control. It’s about time it was brought to its knees.

  12. Don Lerwiis  

    If someone wishes to take offence at something feel free to do so but first make sure that you are the one who is entitled and you are not doing it on behalf of someone else.

    • Peter Coggan  

      Michael Jackson must be racist then? What a load of politically correct nonsense gone overboard!

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