Raffi Torres Messes Up

Thomas Drance
October 30 2011 10:15PM

Well it looks like Paul Bissonette's usually flawless twitter usage has finally got one of his teammates into trouble. That teammate: former Canucks forward Raffi Torres, who I personally loved as a Canuck. Raffi, however, made the idiotic mistake of doing blackface on Halloween, when he dressed as Jay-Z and his wife dressed as a pregnant Beyonce Knowles. Seriously people, don't do it, don't wear black-face on Halloween, or ever. It's stupid, it's ignorant, and it just doesn't fly.

Now I think it's probable that Raffi Torres, a ginger whose father hails from Mexico City, doesn't have a racist bone in his body. But blackface has a particular, bigoted history that makes its usage beyond the pale in polite society. Even if Raffi's halloween costume bears little resemblance to the blackface of minstrel shows, the subject is too loaded to be a source of humour. It's off limits. Of course, the realm of professional hockey players rarely qualifies as "polite society," and this is not the first blackface/halloween costume/NHL player controversy in the last few years.

I'm talking of course about Patrick Kane and Adam Burish back in 2009. Patrick Kane of course dressed up as Scottie Pippen, while Adam Burish dressed up as Rodman:

In the case of Patrick Kane and Adam Burish, their costume was outed by Ernest Wilkins a RedEye intern who tweeted out the photos and later wrote, "It's interesting being a Black (feel free to sub in Latino/Woman/actual Penguin at your will) hockey fan sometimes. We don't see a lot of players that look like us, and we want more people out there to look up to on the ice. Stuff like this doesn't help." Amen.

Wilkins was, predictably, criticized for tweeting out the photo because he "focussed on Kane" rather than on Kane and Burish together because, "of course... only one of those guys is a star." Solid homer reporting from Chicago Now's Mike Kiley on that one

Biznasty has since taken to twitter to defend his teammate saying "Raffi is a huge Jay-Z fan" as if that has anything to do with the issue. He also RT'd a photo of Dwayne Wade in white face as a way of rhetorically asking "what's the difference between the two?" Let's just say that Bissonette is digging himself in deeper on this one. It doesn't matter if Raffi is a Jay-Z fan, it's the invoked tradition of blackface that is offensive here. And that's also why the Dwayne Wade comparison falls flat: it's the sordid history Raffi's costume references that is at issue here.

Here's the point to me: blackface halloween costumes are racist at worst, and woefully ignorant at best. They're in indefensible poor taste and any smart person knows it. There's context here though, hockey players and the world they inhabit isn't always enlightened. Just based on Bissonette's usually excellent twitter account you can infer some borderline medieval attitudes towards topics like in-game toughness, and women. Up until tonight I wouldn't have included "ethnic minorities"(*) on that list, but the fact that one of the most "with-it" NHLers wasn't wise to the shit-storm that would ensue when he tweeted out a photo of a teammate in blackface is baffling, revealing and sad. 

(*) I'm informed that the UN considers the term "ethnic minorities" to be racist.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#2 Scott McKenzie
October 30 2011, 10:18PM
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Bruce Arthur with a guest post on Canucks Army.

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#3 Dude
October 30 2011, 10:19PM
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You're a moron Drance

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#5 Scott McKenzie
October 30 2011, 10:30PM
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Ha, at least I leave my name. C'mon "Dude."

But honestly, every time you see someone dressed as Mr. T, Obama, Michael Jordan, etc. at a halloween party you think they're being racist?

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#6 Kohma
October 30 2011, 10:31PM
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"They're in indefensible poor taste and any smart person knows it."

Well then, you've got that one locked up air tight, haven't you?

There is a difference between "blackface" as worn by Al Jolson, and altering your appearance to augment the authenticity of a costume. On Halloween. Imagine.

Anyone attempting to infuse this with racial discord is seriously kidding themselves.

Any blogger worth reading knows this.

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#7 Morgan
October 30 2011, 10:43PM
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Good read. Yeah blackface should never be okay, but most people are ignorant about the offensive nature of blackface. Case in point, in high school my Japanese teacher wore blackface for Halloween and the majority of people in my school thought it was hilarious. The kicker was that she was an ethnic minority herself, but just goes to show how deep the ignorance runs. In Raffis' defense though, I don't think he's a bigot, he's just ignorant.

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#9 Oh Canada
October 30 2011, 10:45PM
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How reverse rascist is this? Lighten up you people

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#10 Kohma
October 30 2011, 10:57PM
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@TD You wrote it, I read it, and I disagree. That's what the comment section is for. I don't believe I was disrespectful, at least, no more so than you were in your defence of your opinion.

Blackface was disrespectful for it's exaggeration and it's stereotypical view. To assume that all african-americans looked or behaved liked that, or to portray them as such was ignorance.

Torres took one person, albeit of a different race, and imitated his image/persona. That isn't ignorance, it's attention to detail. Would Tussaud's wax museum sculpt Jay-Z and Paul McCartney out of the same colored wax so as not to offend?

People come in all different colors. To notice this is not ignorance. To emulate this is not ignorance. To exaggerate and to stereotype is.

It's just a shame that at this point in history we aren't beyond this conversation.

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#11 Big J
October 30 2011, 11:02PM
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Great post.

For those so eager to defend blackface: I challenge you to put on this Jay Z costume, go to a Halloween party full of black people you've never met before and explain to them why it's not racist.

It's easy to defend casual racism to a bunch of white people on the internet. Try justifying it to the people it's offensive to.

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#12 Kohma
October 30 2011, 11:09PM
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"It's easy to defend casual racism to a bunch of white people on the internet. Try justifying it to the people it's offensive to."

Assumptions like this are ignorant. Next, your reasoning that I'm white will be that I use proper english, or that I have a computer.

Are you capable of thought without preconceived notion?

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#13 Chad
October 30 2011, 11:19PM
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Give me a break Drance... Racist?? Ignorant?? Jay Z is a star & as they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery.. Don't look for problems where there are none.. Makes you lose credibility.

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#14 Chad
October 30 2011, 11:19PM
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Give me a break Drance... Racist?? Ignorant?? Jay Z is a star & as they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery.. Don't look for problems where there are none.. Makes you lose credibility.

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#15 Chad
October 30 2011, 11:19PM
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Give me a break Drance... Racist?? Ignorant?? Jay Z is a star & as they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery.. Don't look for problems where there are none.. Makes you lose credibility.

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#16 Chad
October 30 2011, 11:19PM
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Give me a break Drance... Racist?? Ignorant?? Jay Z is a star & as they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery.. Don't look for problems where there are none.. Makes you lose credibility.

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#17 Big J
October 30 2011, 11:31PM
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"Are you capable of thought without preconceived notion?"

Yes, my preconceived notion is that I have a problem with white people on the internet defending something that's loaded with racist baggage.

Are you African American/Canadian? If you are and have no problem with stuff like this, then power to you. It would be great to live in a world where people can paint their skin whatever colour without it echoing some of our nastiest pieces of cultural heritage. But for now I really can't understand why people care more about a Halloween costume than making slightest effort not to be offensive.

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#18 Joe P.
October 30 2011, 11:48PM
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Thomas, an earnest question: Why refer to Torres as a "ginger"? I'm not sure if you're using it as an attempt at levity or you believe it's a non-derogatory term for a person with red hair, but it's out of place in this post either way. Using an insulting term for one's physical appearance doesn't fit in a post (rightly) condemning a Halloween costume that references a practice of insulting a group of people partly because of their physical appearance.

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#19 Frank
October 30 2011, 11:49PM
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I really don't see an issue with this. If a black guy dressed as a white guy, it'd be fine, everybody laughs, life's great... and I've seen it numerous Halloweens.

How about Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder? He's obviously a terrible person.

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#20 Kohma
October 30 2011, 11:53PM
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Mixed, actually. I disagree with Drance, but respect his right to his opinion. You however, big j, exemplify my point. Go read the definition of the word stereotype and then your comment, and hopefully you'll understand.

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#21 Scruffz
October 31 2011, 12:17AM
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This is ridiculous, And I'm black (well, mixed with Indian, but my point still stands).

Torres was dressed up as a REAL PERSON. He wasn't making a mockery of black people at all. If he was he'd be wearing a suit with an afro and big lips, which to my understanding is traditional blackface. People need to stop being so sensitive about this. Seriously.

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#22 Bish
October 31 2011, 12:45AM
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Thanks for making this world more PC, exactly what we need................ Give your head a shake, maybe Raffi should shake it for you

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#23 eastvanhalen
October 31 2011, 01:11AM
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Man, nothing pisses off a bunch of white people on the internet more than being told they might be doing something racist.

I don't read Bissonette any more because his sexism got tedious (yes, being a woman hockey fan really sucks sometimes). It's unsurprising that he's similarly clueless about blackface; he really needs to shut up now.

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#24 Nick B
October 31 2011, 01:26AM
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I think some of you are confused about the definition of "blackface".

"Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, in which performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person."

I don't see anything stereotyped or exaggerated about Torres' appearance. with regard to Jay-Z. For reference: http://www.topnews.in/files/Jay-Z65.jpg

This is a non-story and it's pretty weak on the part of the author to try and manipulate this into something that's racially charged when it clearly isn't. Torres dressed as Jay-Z, a man who happens to be black, and wore brown makeup in order to simulate his costume. It's not racist and it's not a stereotype. If he had gone and drawn huge cartoonish lips on himself, exaggerated the whites of his eyes, and carried around a slice of watermelon with him, then I'd see the point, but I don't see anything like that here.

And honestly, Drance, I'm not a Canucks fan and I only found this blog through PD, but the fact that you call Bissionette's twitter account "usually flawless" implies that you have some pretty warped views of what is and isn't offensive. The guy basically acts like a chauvinist, and there are probably more women who find his twitter account more demeaning than blacks who find Torres' costume demeaning. There was a time when women didn't have equal rights in this country either; is Biz bringing back memories of that of that when he talks about panty soup? if you find this offensive but consider Biz's twitter to be otherwise excellent, I'd say you're pretty hypocritical. (For the record, I like Biz's twitter and think he's funny, and none of this stuff has offended me in the slightest).

I'm sure Raffi Torres doesn't hate black people and just wanted to dress up as a rapper that he actually is a big fan of in real life. Political correctness is stupid and is the reason that these sorts of things even make the "news" (term used loosely) in the first place. White people with white guilt talk about things like this because they feel like they have to. If it was a black man dressing as Sidney Crosby, people wouldn't be writing about it. Not as a racially-charged attack on white people, anyway.

The fact that nobody will be talking about this in a week pretty much sums it up. Typical white guilt that keeps the rest of us from moving forward from this political correctness crap that should have been left behind in the 70s.

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#25 eastvanhalen
October 31 2011, 03:07AM
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White guilt? Yeah, systemic racism is just another burden for white people to bear...please.

With his sexism, Bissonette is actually reminding women that there's a long road still to travel until we actually have equality, and with his support of Torres he's reminding black people of the same damn thing.

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#26 Sahenski
October 31 2011, 03:26AM
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Was it poor taste when Ben Kingsley played the role of Ghandi?

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#27 James F
October 31 2011, 05:07AM
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Blackface: "a form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, in which performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person."

Where is the stereotype? Where is the caricature? He is dressed up as another person, not as another race - there is a difference. This was not blackface, this was dressing up as Jay-Z - who is black. Therefore, to be in the right costume, he had to look black. He didn't use any stereotypes or exaggerated features, he simply tinted his skin. It really is no different than Wade tinting his skin white (though, honestly, if you look at the pic of Wade, he went way excessively white whereas Torres definitely didn't even go very dark skinned so Wade's actually has more of the caricature in it than Torres'). I don't see the racism or ignorance in dressing up as someone you respect for Halloween and getting the costume right by using the appropriate skin tone.

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#29 JD13
October 31 2011, 08:30AM
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This isnt even newsworthy unless you want to point out the work he put into his costume. You're "reacting" to a "controversy" that is artificially created in the first place while at the same time dancing around calling him a racist...it's a joke, as is this story. Tell us, what are the resgressive attitudes that you find "distasteful?" Then again, what do you expect, I mean really aren't hockey players just dumb hicks from down on the farm? Certainly they MUST be racist...I mean, they dress up as black people. Get over yourself. You don't call him a racist, but you might as well have. What WAS the point of your blog then? To say that Torres has a bad costume? OMG, a non-black came to a party as a black entertainer...the horror of it all. To top it off, your a canucks fan...sitting there with your $5 cafe' latte creating phony controversies...must be a liberal.

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#30 JD13
October 31 2011, 08:33AM
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You dance around calling someone a racist with a story that complains about racism, and you tell others to "grow up"? How about talking about HOCKEY instead of your "issues" with the sport, or some rediculous holloween rant. If you're not screaming racism, than really, what's your point for the story? Spare us all the phony outrage.

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#32 JD13
October 31 2011, 08:47AM
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And to top it off...This isn't the definition of "black face". He was dressed as a BLACK ENTERTAINER, wasn't strutting around singing Mammie, or saying Yessah, No Sah. It was a Halloween costume of an entertainer. Why don't you go and ask Jay-Z if he was offended? Or are you speaking for all the offended folk? Naturally, if you're offended, there must be tens if not hundreds out there offended as well.

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#33 jd13
October 31 2011, 08:53AM
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Good for you. I'm "unsurprised" that some non-issue is blown out of proportion by some apparently holier than thou blogger that has nothing better to do than create phony controversy. I guess when you follow a team that has nothing going for it than two creepy twins and an overpaid flop of a goalie, you have to make a name for yourself somehow...lol.

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#34 jd13
October 31 2011, 08:56AM
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Being a blogger for the Canucks, I would say that the "complex issues" in life have already escaped you...lol. Tell us, what are the social issues in hockey that leave you so sad?

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#35 Jim
October 31 2011, 09:02AM
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You lose your credibility with me right off the bat when you say he made the idiotic mistake of donning blackface. If you knew anything about the history of blackface, you'd know that it was an exaggerated form of makeup for white actors that was used in vaudeville shows to portray a sickeningly racist stereotype of a black person.

I'm going to assume that I'm the only black person who has responded to this thread so far, since I didn't read all of the replies. Blackface is an awful reminder of the injustice and racism that people with my skin color have faced throughout history. Comparing Torres' costume to that is pretty infuriating to be honest. He's dressed as a celebrity. A celebrity who happens to be black. The same goes for the Blackhawks players. It's one thing to wear dark makeup in order to create an accurate representation, and it's another to call it "blackface."

I appreciate your concern, but this isn't anything that anyone should find offensive. I certainly don't find it to be so.

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#36 Jim
October 31 2011, 09:05AM
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And if anything, I'm more offended by this article to be honest. Some white blogger who feels he needs to still call attention the "struggling black man" from the horrors of stereotypes and racism in modern society. You're not doing us any favors, man.

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#37 JD13
October 31 2011, 09:18AM
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@Jim Thank you for pointing out to the "ignorant" what blackface is. Apparently, even after linking to Wikipedia, the blogger here has no clue what blackface is. Not even remotely the same as Torres Jay-Z costume. With all 24/7 "coverage" nowadays, folks have to create controversy in order to have something to write. Hell, last week Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots had the nerve to take a picture with a porn star. And in one shirt, GASP!! the porn star had his jersey on!!! OMG!!! And then...he was SHIRTLESS!!!...GFAWWWWW!!!! And he had to apologize...WHY?? These "crusaders" really need to get over themselves.

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#38 JD13
October 31 2011, 09:31AM
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What's even more amusing is that you use an oft derrogatory term of "ginger" in YOUR "story" whining about racist overtones...lol. So it's ok to use slang terms for whites? Oh wait, isn't Torres part Hispanic? What do you have against Hispanics??

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#40 Brandon
October 31 2011, 10:39AM
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Nick B says it all. A really well spoken individual who may have some kind of hockey background. I usually don't waste my time on this stuff but because it was on Yahoo it gets some attention. I'm sure the bulk of this bloggers followers are Twitter keyboard warriors who have never played a meaningful game of hockey in their life. It may be time to assess what you do with your spare time. Anyone who has played this game their entire lives probably doesn't read or respect a "bloggers" opinion. If you knew that much about the game you would be out playing it instead of in Mom's basement "blogging" about it. I'm sure your twitter followers are very proud of you though for getting this much attention.

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#41 R P
October 31 2011, 11:02AM
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your an absolute goof. This blog has no credibility, you have no idea what your talking about. What about Robert Downey Junior in Tropic Thunder, Get bent

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#43 JonR
October 31 2011, 11:12AM
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It's offensive to a vast majority of black(Americans, at least) when white people wear black make-up and "act black". That's a simple fact and it's really not debatable.

Some people are arguing that it shouldn't be offensive, with is an argument that has points worth making.

However, that doesn't change the fact that it's very offensive to a lot of people. If you allow that it's offensive, regardless of WHY it's offensive, continuing to do it(or defend it) is just saying a big FU to all those that are offended(or see why it may be offensive).

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#44 Mantastic
October 31 2011, 11:24AM
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is it racist if a non-chinese dresses up as bruce lee?

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#45 ty
October 31 2011, 11:59AM
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@Big J

Wow you guys are all jokes. If i dressed up as an african american and went to a party where they were the majority im sure they would laugh, high 5 and say hilarious. holy god

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#46 ty
October 31 2011, 12:01PM
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@Thomas Drance

Thomas you have a screw loose writing this blog. Its people like you who are racist for writing this and publishing it

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#47 ty
October 31 2011, 12:02PM
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@JonR

how is it offensive on halloween? good god your nuts. your the racist

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#48 JD13
October 31 2011, 12:02PM
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Tropic Thunder, well thought out satire? Robert Downey Jr was no differently made up than Torres.

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#49 Ryan
October 31 2011, 12:06PM
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racist?

http://www.buzzfeed.com/sgtdopushups/dwayne-wade-as-justin-timberlake-21dz

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#50 felix
October 31 2011, 12:10PM
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Big J wrote:

Great post.

For those so eager to defend blackface: I challenge you to put on this Jay Z costume, go to a Halloween party full of black people you've never met before and explain to them why it's not racist.

It's easy to defend casual racism to a bunch of white people on the internet. Try justifying it to the people it's offensive to.

WOuld you mind explaning how it's racist ? thanks I though racism had something to do with skin color. ITS HALLOWEEN' ITS A COSTUME this is insane

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