Dear Non-Black Cosplayers
Disclaimer: Strong use of language in this article and not suited for younger readers.
Look, I know you don’t know me, and I’m new to this whole writing thing. Regardless, we’re going to learn about this together. This is the thing, I’m a cosplayer. When I say I love to cosplay, I mean I really LOVE to cosplay. I’ve been doing it for some time now, and I’ve seen that the community has a problem. Being a bi-racial person (black/Asian) and cosplaying someone who isn’t my skin color, I’ve been called the black version of [insert character]. It happens a lot. It’s sad and off-putting, but it happens. I’ve seen a black cosplayer dress up as a well-done Link, and this guy continuously called him Black Link and Dark link. The PoC cosplayer corrects him, but he continued to do it until the cosplayer stalked away. This is one of the problems black people face as cosplayers. Now, let’s look up the definition of Cosplay.
“Cosplay, a contraction of the words costume play, is a hobby in which participants called cosplayers wear costumes called cosplay and fashion accessories to represent a specific character.”
This definition doesn’t mean that a PoC is a PoC version of that character when we cosplay. We are cosplaying that person and that’s it. While some PoC cosplayers may add Afrocentric features to the character, it’s because they want to make the character their own and not be offensive. This leads to the other thing for PoC cosplayers, especially black ones: blackface. I want you to go back to the definition of cosplay. Where in that sentence does it say in order to cosplay a character you have to paint your skin the same colour? It doesn’t, and blackface has a racist background. For those that don’t know, blackface was created to be used by white actors in movies for leads characters that were supposed to be black. This happened all throughout the early days of film and the first film to do so was Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This would later be seen as a problem, and it was stopped. So, the question now is, why is it okay to wear my skin tone as an accessory? Why is it okay for a non-black person to dress up as a well known black character and do blackface?
Don’t worry, I’ll wait….
And, no, accuracy doesn’t count as a proper answer. There are white cosplayers who have never done blackface for a PoC character. They did it well and were recognized as that character. PoC cosplayers aren’t painting their skin to look like non-melanated characters. You don’t see black and brown cosplayers jumping in flour to cosplay Sailor Moon, Spider-man, Batman, etc. just to complete the cosplay. So, the real question is why do so many feel the need to actually go through with doing something that is clearly so offensive? In this country, I’m seen as something that is cool, but me myself as a black person isn’t welcomed. Things that little black girls and boys get teased about like their skin, lips, hair, and body shape is popular when on a non-PoC. Truly, I tend to only talk about this subject when it happens, but it’s getting out of hand. There are non-black cosplayers have to use lip prosthetics because it is a known black feature, but it’s not actually something the character has. It’s just too damn far because you know blackface wasn’t just enough. Let’s not even go into the whole you can’t be this character because they aren’t black or the use of racial slurs on black cosplayers pages. That’s a topic for another day. It happens and we’ll cover it…eventually.
I think I’ll end this with my favorite Paul Moonie quote. “Everybody wanna be a nigga, but nobody wants to be a nigga.” The way I take that is when someone does something like blackface, they can take it off at night and be treated like a normal person again. I’m always gonna be black all day every day. So, you know, could you not? K, thanks, bye.
Now, if you excuse me I’m gonna play God of war and maybe some Yakuza 6 while listening to J. Coles new album.
I was N.G. and this my cosplay rant.