Racial Humour in the Post-racial: A Critical Race Africology of Canadian Blackface Incidents


Phillip Howard

Funding Program:

SSHRC Insight Development Grant

Funding Amount:


Incidents in which persons appear in blackface ostensibly for the purposes of fun and entertainment regularly occur in Canada, and many of these incidents occur on university campuses. Given the post-racial climate that has been claimed in Canada since at least the implementation of a state Multiculturalism policy these incidents require investigating to uncover what they might tell us about the contemporary meanings of race in Canada. These blackface incidents have implications for the efficacy of antiracism and equity education at the elementary and secondary levels, since the university students performing these acts are ostensibly the most successful graduates of K-12 education. This study will examine how contemporary Canadian blackface incidents are performed, justified, and apologized for in a post-racial climate; how claims to humour might function rhetorically to support particular kinds of racial knowing and not knowing; how these acts are experienced by Blacks amid dominant claims to the diminishing significance of race; and how Black student organizations resist, and challenge these acts. This study will contribute generally to the sociological and educational literatures addressing the roles of innocence and denial in constructing racial identities and bolstering racially inequitable arrangements, and examining how the racially oppressed exercise agency in resisting these arrangements. This study will also make contributions beyond the academic community. Results of the study will be used to make recommendations for antiracism and equity education at elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels that might prevent these incidents from occurring, and that might draw attention to the continuing significance of racism in Canada.