Interestingly, Redface has a history that precedes Blackface, with an early example being the Boston Tea Party participants dressing up as the those of the Mohawk tribe.However, Redface, like Yellowface, grew in popularity through film. In these films, white actors’ skin would be spray painted with reddish pigments and they would usually wear Native American attire. This coincided with the nation’s erasure of natives, as the main excuse for the act of redface was that there were not any Native Americans who could play the roles. Of course, the real truth was that white actors were just seen as more hireable, as Native Americans did exist in the world of Hollywood- they were just unnaccredited and struggling to survive.
Native Americans film roles in the 1900s usually played along with the “savage” portrayal of natives, as well as influenced by America’s favorite genre of the decades: westerns. Though Americans loved these warped ideals of a diminished nation, they refrained from hiring Native Americans, and the Native Americans who were hired found themselves unable to make a dent in the genre culture that failed to truly reflect the experiences and lives of their people and culture.
Moving into modern day, redface is found in a new controversy: sports mascots. Recently, teams such as the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians have come under fire for their outdated, stereotypical portrayals of their mascots. Native American communities have protested games held by the sports teams, asking for a change of the team’s mascot and/or name, but have so far been unsuccessful. The picture above is from a protest at a Cleveland Indian’s baseball game. The picture shows a fan, dressed in red makeup and a headdress, being shown contrasting images of a blackfaced lawn jockey and the team mascot drawn in the same style. When asked if he would wear blackface, the fan immediately replied that he would not. However, when asked why redface was any better of an act, the man could not come up with a solid answer, only left to repeat that “he was an Indians fan.” This encounter illustrates the lack of ethical integrity Americans show with the act of Redface, as they are often unaware of the racist implications and ignorance that comes with them dressing as the “American Indian”, and that many find that when redface or other “faces” are used by industries (ie. Fashion or Film), it makes them excusable. Instead, the use of redface by these industries just shows the own hidden face of America’s ignorance to the history of our nation’s destruction of another.
Raheja, Michelle H.. Reservation Reelism : Redfacing, Visual Sovereignty, and Representations of Native Americans in Film. Lincoln, NE, USA: University of Nebraska Press, 2011. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 17 November 2015.
FROWNS, CLEVELAND. “Redface Has Another Big Day at the Ballpark in Cleveland.” Cleveland Frowns RSS. N.p., 6 Apr. 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.