A white cyclist showed up in blackface to a diverse Halloween biking event in downtown Detroit on Monday evening.
Photos of the man, who was dressed as rapper Lil Wayne, fanned across social media on Tuesday, prompting outrage – and some defenders.
Many pointed out that blackface is offensive because it was used to create degrading caricatures of black people, their images emblazoned on advertising. The exaggerated features reinforced a dehumanizing stereotype that black people were ignorant, inferior and buffoonish.
On Monday, the costumed man was riding with hundreds of other cyclists during the Halloween Slow Roll. Some riders said the man was offensive and acting wildly. Others stopped to take pictures with him.
“The fact that it was used to dehumanize and make fun of a race of people brings back bad memories and racial tension,” Teresa Stout said on Facebook. “It’s not okay. The problem is, a lot of white people do not know this. It is our job as the educated part of society to educate and inform.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.