Wearing makeup to imitate the appearance of a black person in a derogatory manner.
The portrayal of blackface–when people darken their skin with shoe polish, greasepaint or burnt cork and paint on enlarged lips and other exaggerated features—is steeped in centuries of racism.
“It’s an assertion of power and control,” says David Leonard , a professor of comparative ethnic studies and American studies at Washington State University. “It allows a society to routinely and historically imagine African Americans as not fully human. It serves to rationalize violence and Jim Crow segregation.”