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.

  • 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.

  • Most of you guys need to work on your reading comprehension… A) nowhere do I call Raffi racist, in fact I go out of my way to doubt that he has a racist bone in his body. B) I say usually flawless about the biznasty2point0 twitter acccount, but I also bring up in the last paragraph its regressive attitude towards women.

    As for me promoting racial discord or whatever, grow up folks. Seriously.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • @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.

  • 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??

  • @Jim I have more than a passing familiarity with the Vaudevillian tradition of Blackface and its particular history. My academic work on this subject informs why I find the darkening of ones skin tone to imitate another race (even for a tribute/costume) to be distasteful. Reasonable people can disagree but for me this is just a non-starter for a public figure (or a private individual for that matter). I didn’t approach it as a social justice issue, I approached it as one of taste and attitude and I think it’s a sad commentary…

    And for all the commenters calling me on it, the ginger line was a throw away joke.

  • 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.

  • @Brandon I love that you typed that whole screed out in all seriousness. Well done. Clearly it’s me who is the keyboard warrior, not you. I can’t help myself, my mom tells me to stop or she’ll make me pay rent but I just refuse!

    @RP Well thought out satire has so much to do with Raffi’s stupid halloween costume. You’re right, I’m convinced. Well done.

  • 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).

  • @Ty
    No Ty…He’s not racist…and he’s not SAYING Torres is racists, only that he’s acting like one and that all of us are racist in our beliefs if we don’t have a problem with his Halloween costume…lol. The whole “story” is a non-issue. Did anyone call Al Sharpton over this yet? Jessie Jackson? Anyone ask Jay-Z if he’s offended? Is it ok for Dave Chappelle to do a white guy skit? I don’t read it to that anymore than I read into this. What’s racist about a guy portraying a celebrity? Was he holding a slice of watermelon? Ribs? Wings? Perpetuating any stereotypes? Not based on the picture posted. Looked like a pretty good costume to me, like he put some work into it. It’s irresponsible and tiring actually that folks toss out the race card at the slightest suggestion (in their head anyway) that something is “wrong” to them. But in this day and age when the race card is tossed out more than ever, it’s no surprise that crusaders jump on “stories” like this.

  • Now I understand fully why hockey has turned into arena ballet. Canadians have grown way too soft intellectually. It’s odd too because most of the hockey players seem like down-to-Earth reasonable guys with a sense of humor and the only people ever offended are the media and “bloggers”.

  • @Walt please check the second to last paragraph for your answer. Also, read harder.

    @JD13 I don’t think you’re racist, I think reasonable people can disagree with me on this issue – even though I don’t think blackface, or darkening your skin for a costume is reasonable – and I definitely didn’t write anything even remotely as inflammatory as you’re pretending I did.