Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey INVENTED Blackface Trend, Way Before Poseur Ralph Northam
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has fessed up to blacking her face up while in college. When Ivey was a senior at Auburn University in 1967, her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta (KKK, for short), had a photo on its yearbook page depicting five dumbass white girls in gross blackface with grosser images of "Mammy!" shouting figures on their shirts. These women have probably all gone on to serve on juries. The photo's caption reads: "Alpha Gam Minstrels welcome rushees aboard their showboat." We know we're talking about Alabama, but it was 1967, not 1867. They could've dressed as Vulcans or Monkees.
There's no evidence that Ivey is one of the Jolsons in the photo. But the governor was "made aware" of a college radio interview featuring herself and her then-fiance Ben LaRavia, which turned out to be a sort of blackface podcast. LaRavia shares the charming anecdote of Ivey dressing up in "a pair of blue coveralls" and wearing "black paint all over her face." People were listening to this shit. We know LaRavia wouldn't have revealed to the entire campus that Ivey liked for him to tie her up and tickle her feet with his tongue. She certainly would've spoken up or objected if he had, but there was no shame in her blackface game.
LARAVIA: As I look at my fiancee across the room, I can see her that night. She had on a pair of blue coveralls. And she had put some black paint all over her face. And she was.... we were acting out this skit called Cigar Butts.... This skit did not require a lot of talent as far as verbal talent, but it did require a lot of physical acting, such as crawling around on the floor looking for cigar butts, which certainly got a big reaction from the audience.
Not that it matters, but Ivey goes on to describe how she flat-out choked on stage. She forgot all her punchlines and just stank up the joint. People expect a certain level of professionalism from their dehumanizing racist comedy.
Auburn was desegregated in 1964. There were only seven black students in 1967, but if Auburn wanted more, there were plenty of black people in Alabama. Blackface wasn't necessary to increase minority recruitment. One of Ivey's classmates, Samuel Pettijohn, described what it was like for black students at the time.
PETTIJOHN: In the campus environment there were obviously some negatives. We didn't associate with the other students in the class, and they wouldn't acknowledge us at all outside of the classroom; or if we sat at a table in the cafeteria or library, students would stand up and leave. But we used it to our advantage. If the seven of us wanted to meet and sit together, we knew we could easily clear a table. If one of us sat down, we knew no one else would sit there.
The blackface skit was a deliberate part of an actively hostile environment or -- perhaps even worse -- an expression of how little white students thought of black people. No "verbal talent" is required, after all, when mocking those you consider subhuman. It also doesn't surprise us that the racist skit was for the Baptist Student Union.
Racism at Auburn didn't end with the summer of love. A 1969 yearbook photo shows white Auburn students still parading around in blackface. This is the year after Martin Luther King was assassinated. How much blood did we have to spill before people like Ivey would do the bare minimum to recognize our humanity?
No one was punished for this.The Plainsman
Here's the bullshit apology video Gov. Cigar Butts released last week:
Gov. Kay Ivey apologizes for racist skit www.youtube.com
IVEY: My fellow Alabamians, I offer my heartfelt apologies for my participation in something from 52 years ago...
Got to interrupt here: A Southern woman doesn't remind people she's old AF unless it's really important for her to downplay her actions at the time. Ivey does find her blackface performance "regrettable" and not just because she bombed "up there, without all the assistance." She vowed to do all she can to show that today's Alabama is a "far cry" from the Alabama of the 1960s. That doesn't include resigning. No one will ever resign because they ran around in blackface. The Alabama GOP and Donald Trump all have Ivey's back. Besides, Virginia's (Democratic) Gov. Ralph Northam managed to moonwalk his way out of his BlacKkKlansman scandal. We have more governors who wore blackface than we have governors with black faces.
NARRATOR: It did not change.NPR
What's actually more offensive than blackface is Ivey boasting about how much Alabama has changed when she's personally fought that change for most of her political life. Ivey doesn't just sign draconian anti-abortion bills. She's also signed laws forbidding the removal of Confederate monuments (probably for her own personal protection). She said we can't "change or erase our history." Here we agree: Ivey's history is gross and racist, and she can't change or erase that. We're not even going to help her try.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.