Photo of man wearing ‘blackface’ for Mr T costume at Scots bar Halloween party sparks anger

A Scots bar has come under fire for sharing a photo of a man wearing ‘blackface’ when he dressed up as Mr T for a Halloween party.

The picture shows the man, dressed as the US actor and TV personality, in the Stagging Post in Airdrie holding a cash prize for winning their fancy dress competition on Saturday night.

A caption alongside the image said: “And the winner is our very own Mr T xx well done Dylan xx.”

The photograph has since been taken down from the pub’s Facebook page.

Elaine Austin-Hartwell, who is of Caribbean English heritage, was among those offended by the photo and claims that, upon trying to speak to the business about it on Facebook, she received a number of responses telling her to “lighten up” and “get over herself.”

The 54-year-old, who lives in Aberdeenshire, told the Record: “We did try to talk to them but we were mocked and blocked.

“The fact they (the business) posted the photo makes them responsible.

“It’s not even done well. There are so many other people he could have been, why did he have to choose Mr T? He could have worn gold chains, a mohawk, big muscles and people could say ‘that’s a white Mr T’ but he did not need to make it blackface and take it that far. We don’t have to put on the colour. It’s the mockery of it – it just needs to stop. People of colour have always been the butt of the joke in British humour.

“I feel like we don’t matter when people say things like ‘lighten up’ or ‘get over it.’ When you try to talk to someone about doing something racist, people turn round and attack you and say you are wrong.

“It’s just so wrong and rotten. I don’t want this pub to think this is okay and other pubs to then think it’s okay. I want it to stop.

“This is 2021. If it was 1970 when people did not really understand, that would be different, but we have been deluged in the media, who have warned people at Halloween to not do this but they still do it and think it’s okay.”

A spokesperson for The Staging Post, Airdrie, said: “We’re hugely sorry. The competition was judged by a third-party and we took the photo off our Facebook page as soon as we were made aware. We pride ourselves on being an inclusive community pub at the heart of Airdrie, supporting a number of local charities and sports teams, and there is no room for any form of discrimination at The Staging Post.”

The man pictured in the photograph, named only as Dylan alongside the photo shared on Facebook, declined to comment when asked.

The concept of blackface began centuries ago but became prominent in the US in the 1800s, particularly as the campaign to end slavery grew.

In the 1830s, minstrel shows in which white actors depicted black people alongside comedy and music were performed in New York, with performers using burnt cork, shoe polish and grease paint to blacken their faces to impersonate slaves working on plantations.

The makeup often involved enlarging the performer’s lips and exaggerating features, as well as exaggerating accent and other characteristics.

The concept of ‘blacking up’ is viewed by many academics as a relic of dominance and ridicule of slave populations and the practice must be condemned as racist.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture states on its website: “Blackface and the codifying of blackness— language, movement, deportment, and character—as caricature persists through mass media and in public performances today.

“In addition to the increased popularity of ‘black’ Halloween costumes, colleges and universities across the country continue to battle against student and professor blackface performances.

“In each instance, those facing scrutiny for blackface performances insist no malice or racial hatred was intended.”

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