Teju Cole on Blackface


Manage episode 227552600 series 248
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When depictions of Virginia politicians in blackface surfaced this month, the New Yorker contributor Teju Cole was unsurprised. “A white man of a certain age in the U.S.,” he reflects, “is found to have done something racist in his past; well, yes.” As a photographer and photo critic, he is acutely aware that a photograph captures the thinnest sliver of time, half a second or much less. So any photograph of a man in blackface—or in any other offensive image—always indicates that “there’s a lot more where that came from.”

Cole maintains that Governor Ralph Northam’s resignation or persistence in office isn’t the point. Resignations, he says, can play the role of a valve, merely releasing pressure from a system that is intolerable. “Wealth inequality between black people and white people is cavernous,” Cole says. “And yet I don’t suppose most white Americans wake up in the morning and feel personally responsible for that state of affairs.”

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