Raffi Torres Messes Up

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.

  • Please, everyone is just looking for an excuse to call someone racist or be offended. He dressed as Jay-Z, he dressed as a black person. WHO CARES. find something else to worry about and stop letting EVERYTHING offend you.

  • @eastvanhalen
    It’s a “hey, fellow white people, quit doing dumbass things like this” piece.

    Sounds like a white guilt apology like statement to me. There’s nothing “fellow white people” are doing wrong in this case. And not sure, but seems like you are doing just that, comparing this to blackface. OMG, a white guy dresses like a black guy, let’s all hold our breath and look over at the black folk and see if they laugh or not. Oh, no, so embarassed by my “fellow white folk” doing something so dastardly as dressing as a black celebrity, Let me look over at the black folk in the room and roll my eyes at the stupid white guy…so tired of that whole walking on egg shells white guilt attitude. Nothing perpetuates racism than barking at every little sound in the night.

  • Poopoo

    Teh face is fine. How is it any worse than a pre mae costume face?

    He did not exaggerate any features in astereotypical way.

    To ay Wade’s actions are diferent is a cop out.

    If you don’t like the fact blackface was used as a device to make fun of blacks, why would you justify the use of whiteface to make fun of whites?

    WHat? Wade wasn’t amking fun of him? Guess what, this guy wasn’t poking fun at anyone either.

    As well, he isn’t wearing black face,That poibnt has already been covered.

    What about the movie White Chicks? Lots of fun making thee. White Men can’tjump./ Sounds stereotypical to me.

    White Face is used to make fun of white people often. therefore, you can’t be justifying its use if you get upset at this stuff.

    I guess we have to ban all dark colored make up in order to appease the hypocritical pc police, now.

    You really need to learn the history behind true blackface, as well as, understand what racisin is.

    Just because I do something that you believe a racist person would do, does not mean my actions are racist. The intent is important.

    People use oven cleaner to get high, that doesn’t mean we should ban oven cleaner. Just because people use his makeup to be racist does not mea we should ban it or that all use of it is wrong.

    You can’t have it both ways and your Wade justification is a poor cop out.

    You are just another liberal pudding fed, hypocrite.

  • Poopoo

    @JD13: White guilt? No. Nor am I embarrassed, nor am I walking on eggshells. I’m not playing at compassion or somehow claiming that I’m immune to racism or, conversely, wallowing in the fact that I’m not immune to racism.

    You continue to impute motives and feelings to me without any basis for doing so. Cut it out, please.

  • I think if Raffi had dressed up as a “blackface” character from 1850, that might be offensive. There is no possible way anyone could mistake his costume for being that.

    Blackface entertainers are now judged to be shameful, but it isn’t the black makeup that make them shameful and offensive (I hope that’s obvious)

    To get offended by black makeup that doesn’t resemble “blackface” just illustrates a failure to understand what is to be embarrassed and offended about when it comes to blackface entertainers and their ugly history. In other words its an ignorant opinion. Which is kind of ironic I guess!

  • Skoal187

    I find this entire article to be foolish and forceful. I saw this costume before reading anything and did not think it was racist at all. In fact, I actually remembered the Chipelle clip and laughed. Point is, he is not doing anything that fulfills a stereotype to be considered racist. He is dressed up as a CELEBRITY. Dwight Howard was a white man before, no problem. And the argument “dress like that and go into a room full of black guys and see” is too funny. If your not comfortable dressing as something, then don’t do it!! Celebrity or not, black or white. This was a horrible article, pushing on racist in itself. Stick to hockey.

  • Skoal187

    So much for my idea for dressing like a coal miner for Halloween. Apparently darkening my face is considered offensive just because some jerkoffs did it many decades ago to promote stereotypes.

  • Skoal187

    To the people decrying the use of “blackface” (Drance et al): Do you understand what blackface is? Do you understand why it is offensive?

    Blackface is a theatrical makeup style that is designed to comically embellish stereotypical features of black people, as perceived by white people. As Canucks fans, I’d expect you all to know about embellishing #BoomRoasted

    But seriously, blackface is offensive because of the character that it is being used to portray. Makeup designed to give someone the appearance of having darker skin and “blackface” are two different things. Blackface is not just the makeup, it’s the entire act and the intentions of the actor.

    You should be offended at a person who dons blackface not because of the makeup, but because of the intent of the actor and the personality that he bestows upon the character he is portraying.

  • Skoal187

    The issue isn’t whether Torres is racist or not. It is that he showed bad judgement. There are many examples of bad costume choices – just think of Prince Harry wearing a Nazi officer costume. Bad optics – bad choice – bad judgement. This is the same….

  • CharlieB

    Wow, just wow. I signed up to this site for the sole purpose of commenting on this article after seeing PTI. What a bunch of BS. This is not black face. If he wants to depict Jay-Z accurately for Halloween, he needs some make-up to look black. Big deal. You’ve successfully created an issue out of nothing to show your superior political correctness. Bravo. Soon, we’re not going to be able to say or do anything without offending a minority group (who probably wouldn’t be offended until somebody writes an article about it). And it’s not the “bottom half of the internet” that disagrees. Apparently Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser didn’t see the racism in it. Get off your high horse and back to reality.

  • @Thomas Drance

    I read a few arguments and comments as well as the main blog. I would have to say that it’s people like you that breed racism. Obviously you are voicing your opinion of an athlete, but then again what does your opinion matter? You think it’s ok for one race to do one thing, and when another race does the same thing it’s wrong. That makes you ignorant and stupid.

    Your sole argument is that it resembles minstrel shows? This was how long ago? It’s 2011 we have a black President in the US. Not to mention the fact that Raffi is of Hispanic decent makes your argument even less credible. Regardless of what anyone says you will look at them as having little class unless they agree with you. You’re a blogger and in the end you want any type of feedback regardless of if it is good or bad.

    Bottom line is that Raffi dressed up for Halloween the one day of the year you can be anything you want. And in my opinion I would think Jay-z would be flattered as he did a pretty good job with the costume.

    As for you I will never follow your blog as I was able to respond here via a link.

    GO SHARKS!!!

  • kesrows

    Hey Thomas. You know I’m a big fan of your work, but can’t get on board with you on this one.

    Although I disagree with you, I’m sorry to see the level to which this whole thread has gone to, although hardly surprised.


  • @Sam “I read a few arguments and comments as well as the main blog. I would have to say that it’s people like you that breed racism.”

    Wow, lots of stupid comments in this thread, yet still yours might be altogether the worst.

  • kesrows

    It’s nice that so many people googled “blackface” today, but it would have been nicer if more of them had read past the first paragraph of the wikipedia entry.