Bamboozled or Bamglühweined?

Dear Housewives,

Nelson Mandela has passed away. You may have heard. It’s all over the twitters and quite the controversy, too. Some people are talking about how Mandela was a great pacifist. Yeah, he was so down with apartheid that he thought that fighting over it was stupid.

As our way to avoid historical revisionism, Kit and I braved the arctic winds and went with some friends over to the Vancouver Christmas Market. Turns out the Market was a great place to go because MULLED WINE! And on the side of one of the buildings there was a tribute to Mandela.


Oh. Wait. Turns out that’s not Nelson Mandela. It’s a white man covered in chocolate. My bad.

Blackface isn’t something that happens in Canada, and Europe doesn’t have any blackface Christmas traditions.  I now realize the error of my ways. A German Christmas Market wouldn’t have a Mandela tribute on display. Silly Portman!

In case you’re not familiar with blackface since it’s never in the news, sometimes people intentionally put on thick makeup to appear like a black person. I can only imagine that this is terrible for one’s pores. What on earth are people thinking? White skin can be very sensitive.

And often people cover their face with chocolate to display their love for high quality confectionary. Don’t worry, they don’t mean to be racist. They can’t help that a history of minstrelsy is what makes their darkened faces culturally legible and delightful.

Now that I look at the image, I see that this chocolate-covered CEO doesn’t  look anything like blackface. Look at the original image from the chocolatier’s website and compare it to one of Al Jolson from his days in actual blackface. If you study them both carefully like I did, you can see they look nothing alike. Not at all!  Al Jolson has a full head of hair. And one’s greasepaint and one’s chocloate. It’s also helpful that you can totally see the difference in the intent of these two dudes in covering their faces.


Really all I can say is that it’s a good thing that the cocoa labourers and the chocolate factory workers aren’t people of colour. That would just be the icing on the chocolate cake. Mmmm… Chocolate cake.


Portman Doe


*Jolson is noted to have used burnt-cork make-up early in his blackface shows; it’s the make-up traditionally used to blacken faces in minstrel shows. The picture above is from later in his career, and it looked like greasepaint to me, though perhaps it’s burnt-cork.