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Misty Copeland Responds to Backlash Over Blackface Comments

Does the talented ballerina deserve criticism for taking a stand against dancers performing in blackface?

I was reading this article recently and I begin to think…

Could Misty Copeland have approached this subject differently?

A little background...

Even if you don't follow ballet, chances are, you've heard of Misty Copeland. Her achievements in the world of Western classical dance are beyond remarkable. Aside from her prodigious rise to stardom, she is the first African American woman to be named Principle Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.

Copeland sparked controversy in December, however, when she posted a picture of two girls on Instagram posing in blackface. Her caption: "And this is the reality of the ballet world...."

This particular ballet, La Bayadère, was being performed in Russia. The setting, however, is India, which serves as the justification for the blackface.

It seems that Copeland was trying to bring awareness to the racial insensitivity of performers wearing blackface. Appropriate, right? Maybe, but the pushback came when some people pointed out that the instagram picture featured two young girls who weren't at fault for the decisions made by the directors at the Bolshoi Theatre.

Additionally, they criticized Copeland about what they considered to be the inappropriate nature of setting those girls up for social media shaming. According to CNN, Copeland didn't back down from her stance, saying this:

"We can't continue to make excuses for those who choose to not see what is in plain sight and that is the truth and reality of so many brown children being shot daily, and viewed as adults. I don't condone bullying but lessons need to be had."

Flash forward...

That brings us to the latest news... Copeland spoke recently about the negative reaction to her Instagram post. On Friday, she appeared at the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit and had this to say about the following issues:

On the overall situation:

  • “I’ve gotten so much backlash, which is just crazy. It turned into me bullying some little girls because I exposed what they’re doing.”

On the Bolshoi Theatre's willingness to cease performing in blackface:

  • “They refused to stop doing it.”

On her commitment to fight for diversity and equality in the arts:

  • “Those types of battles are so necessary but it’s really painful and hard. As much as you say there’s racism still in ballet and the lack of diversity, people will still say, ‘I don’t see it.’ So, I’m like here it is.”

The proverbial coin

There are two sides to this. La Bayadère is essentially a Russian ballet, set in India. While I abhor blackface and find it unquestionably offensive, should Russians be judged in reference to racial insensitivities that are not part of their culture or history?

Copeland should be applauded for the stand she's taking on this issue, but was her social media post the appropriate means to accomplish this? Should she have taken a different approach?

Regardless of the peripheral issues, I tend to believe that blackface, by its very nature is at least racially insensitive, and in most cases, it's overtly racist; this is true regardless of culture or national history.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you agree with Misty Copeland on her position about performers not wearing blackface? Do you think she handled the situation in the correct manner?

Don't forget to leave your comments below…. What do YOU think?


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