Blackface costume in River Forest stirs outrage

Woman apologizes, admits 'racial blind spot'

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It started as a post online from a River Forest woman.

"Happy Halloween! Bob Marley tribute this year (in the form of a banana)," Missy D'Alise wrote on Facebook.

The problem: D'Alise painted her face black, harking back to an era when minstrel shows with white actors did the same, parodying and dehumanizing black people who were enslaved for hundreds of years.

Not only was she roundly lambasted for painting her face, D'Alise was criticized for the costume itself: a comical banana with dreadlocks and a Rastafarian hat.

The backlash on internet chat forums was swift.

"This is so offensive, a terrible representation of our village and I am horrified and disgusted," one commenter wrote on Facebook.

Another wrote: "Blackface has never been ok. Will NEVER be ok. Why do folks act like they didn't get the memo?"

Several commenters called for boycotts of The Dailey Method Oak Park, a yoga and Pilates studio at 208 S. Marion St., falsely believing that D'Alise was still an owner and instructor at the business.

Dailey Method has since released a statement noting that D'Alise, a former owner, is in no way connected to the business.

"From a business perspective, I can tell you that it is completely inconsistent with our values and policies at The Dailey Method that anyone in our community -- student, instructor, or owner -- would do anything that has the potential to threaten the strong sense of inclusion and acceptance that defines who we are," The Dailey Method owner Holly Blakely said in an email to patrons.

D'Alise spoke by telephone with Wednesday Journal, tearfully apologizing and saying she did not know the costume was hurtful.

Her voice shaking over the phone, D'Alise read a statement she wrote: "I meant no ill will and now realize I have some racial blind spots. I plan to reach out to community leaders and work on these issues, so I can grow as a person. I sincerely apologize and know there's no excuse for what I did."

She said in the interview that the costume was a last-minute decision and she originally aimed to use yellow finger paint but realized it wouldn't work. Instead, she used the black face paint and played music by reggae legend Bob Marley as she passed out candy to children.

D'Alise said she moved to River Forest because of its diversity and that she's never thought of herself as being racist.

"What I've learned is I have a racial blind spot," she said.

Asked how she felt about being called racist by so many people online, D'Alise said it was "devastating."

"I love Bob Marley, too, but I made a big mistake and didn't know what I was doing," she said.

Asked if she was aware of the legacy of racist blackface performances and minstrel shows, D'Alise said did not realize what they were before the incident.

tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Kline Maureen  

Posted: November 6th, 2018 8:07 AM

perhaps off-topic, but among my favorite trick-or-treaters this Halloween were two middle-school age girls - one white and the other black - dressed as colonial "patriots" - I made some comment about Paul Revere and the black girl corrected me - "she's Alexander Hamilton and I'm Thomas Jefferson". Personally I thought it was wonderful, but now that you mention it, I wonder, don't they teach these children any history?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: November 5th, 2018 8:31 PM

Right, Simpson The strength of my argument is calling Trump an SOB. You hang on tight to that belief. Maybe it'll help protect you from reality for a little while.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: November 5th, 2018 7:36 PM

@ Dwyer - They already broke through the fence at the southern border of Mexico so their intent isn't pure as you imply. If they are looking for asylum why are they proudly carrying the flag of the tyrannical country they are fleeing? So the strength of your argument is calling the president an SOB, all of us idiots and creeps. I would assume that someone who claims a background in newspaper reporting would have a better handle on wordsmithing, but then I am not overwhelmed with hatred.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: November 5th, 2018 3:31 PM

She didn't know what blackface was until this incident? Who's not aware of this? I was honestly on the fence on this until that statement. Sounds a lot like I got caught and now I am going to pretend I didn't even know this was a thing. The comment of moving to RF for the diversity made me chuckle a little bit also.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: November 5th, 2018 6:58 AM

I didn't use the term "illegally," Simpson, because they're still hundreds of miles away from the US border. So just exactly how can you or that lying creep in the White House say they're entering illegally when they're weeks from entering? Take a deep breath. And while you're at it, as a military veteran, do you advocate the US military firing on unarmed people, as the SOB In Chief is urging our military to do?

Ray Simpson  

Posted: November 4th, 2018 6:14 PM

@ Dwyer - "poor desperate people peacefully trying to legally enter the US" you neglected to mention "ILLEGALLY" There is a way that these folks can become immigrants as millions have done in the past. Entering illegally makes you a criminal and those who took the honorable path are justifiably outraged.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: November 4th, 2018 7:18 AM

Seems like the Republicans aren't the only ones obsessing over red herring issues like border walls and a poor desperate people peacefully trying to legally enter the US. The left has people who can't seem to let go of an act of simple bad judgement for which the woman APOLOGIZED. No, now her mental health is being questioned on top of her character. You're no better than the idiots in MAGA hats.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: November 4th, 2018 6:45 AM

I hereby nominate Anthony Clark and the writers and editors of oakpark.com to serve as the inaugural members of the "Oak Park and River Forest Commission to Prevent Halloween Costumes that are Racially Insensitive, Culturally Misappropriating or Merely Tacky". This is absolutely the most vital matter facing our communities at the moment and nothing short of a commission with full executive powers and not fewer than 20 hearings will suffice. I mean, what about the children?

Drew Rein  

Posted: November 3rd, 2018 11:43 AM

While it does not excuse her behavior, I have made the acquaintance of this woman and believe her to be mentally unwell.

Melvin Tate from Oak Park  

Posted: November 3rd, 2018 9:10 AM

While we've certainly come a long way in terms of race relations in America since the 1960s, incidents like this (and the racist graffiti found on OPRF's campus this week) serve as a painful reminder there's still a long way to go. It seems for every step taken forward, two steps are taken backward. Quite simply, there's no good excuse or rationale for this lady to dress up in blackface. Good for those who called her out on social media.

Linda Vasquez from Oak Park   

Posted: November 3rd, 2018 5:32 AM

I bet if she was MY Neighbor she would NOT have done that! Her Bob Marley fan status should be revoked! What a Racist Jerk! Her & Melania (wit her Colonial Oppressor pith helmet outfit in Africa) R probably buds? God I pray da Bee didn't vote!???????-?????#IAintTheOne #WhitePriveledge #KKKinWH

Alex Garcia  

Posted: November 3rd, 2018 4:25 AM

I'm so glad that there's nothing more important in Oak Park and River Forest right now than critiquing Halloween costumes. Maybe there should be a village commission to pre-approve costumes before they are worn by residents and then to impose penalties on any costumes that do not represent "community values"? Better yet, let's have another Starz series with Halloween garb in River Forest as its focus. That should all keep oakpark.com fairly busy for a while.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 9:48 PM

The longer I live here.....the better I understand people and historical events. In this case, it's Salem, MA in 1692. How did the Salem Gazette cover that?

Andrew Pat  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 7:41 PM

Wow, she really followed the racist playbook to a 'T', didn't she? She wore a racist costume because she knew that she wouldn't really be held accountable -- that, should anyone question her choice, she would cry, and apologize, and, in the end, those who are interested in maintaining white supremacy will insist that we should embrace her and that she shouldn't be held accountable for what she decided to do. Also, kudos to the Wednesday Journal for serving as the vehicle for this nonsense. Your efforts to protect racist white women are, sadly, not unexpected. It would have been surprising if you did hold her accountable for her racism. But white supremacy mandates portraying these incidents as "innocent mistakes." The headline of this article should be: "A Reminder Not to View White People In a Negative Light." Fortunately, more people are seeing through the charade this time. Finally, and most horrifying, is that NO ONE in her circle told her this was a bad idea? Her social circle is racist, too. Stay tuned for Inklebarger's next exposť on their tears of manipulation and feigned ignorance.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 7:26 PM

@Mak Flournoy What you call "whitesplaining," I call "voicing my opinion." Or can only black people comment on race issues? Where did I say or imply that it was OK? You're putting words in my mouth--I said it was "BAD JUDGMENT." And if my condemnation wasn't worded strongly enough for you, it's because I don't think it was meant to be offensive or mean-spirited. I'm well aware of what's taking place on the national scene, and it sickens me. I just can't get overly worked up by what I consider to be an unintentional act of racial insensitivity when blatant racism and nationalism is being tolerated, if not openly embraced, by a broad segment of our country's population. She was ignorant, and she's being publicly shamed for it on social media and in the local paper, so... I would consider that lesson learned and lumps taken.

Diana Lan  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 7:15 PM

This was ignorant and her apology is only due to the backlash. Please save your explanation for someone else. It is and will always be racist to wear blackface, google that. Stop trying to justify racist behavior as okay.

Mindy Credi  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 6:38 PM

A couple years back, a lady in Jamaica found a banana that she thought had Marley's face on it. The photos went viral. Google it! I can't say I think the blackface is appropriate, but I can say I appreciate the apology and her commitment to getting more education.

Mak Flournoy from Oak Park  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 6:35 PM

@Mike Hanline. We call this whitesplaining (look it up). So, using quality make-up makes it OK?! What Ms. D'Alise did was not only insensitive and racist, it was just plain stupid. Her comments about not understanding blackface and given the Megyn Kelly incident, I am yet again disappointed in our community's ignorance. Not only are we not as smart as we're touted to be, the white folks here appear to be completely sheltered from the realities of the current state of affairs in Oak Park and apparently what's taking place on the national scene. Let's not make excuses. The lumps need to be taken, she and others like her need to stop the half hearted apologies and start doing the real work to smarten up and get out of the sheltered bubble that they've been living in.

Karen Walker-Ward  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 5:59 PM

I like Bob Marley too. How is portraying him as a banana a tribute anyway. Bad judgement.....not so sure.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 4:39 PM

I think people need to put this in perspective. Bad judgment? Yes. But applying brown face/body paint as part of a character costume isn't quite the same as the burnt cork and black shoe polish that was used for comedic effect in racist blackface performances and minstrel shows of yesteryear. Intent should still count for something, and she genuinely appears to be remorseful and holding herself accountable.

Adrienne Szarmack Smith  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 3:57 PM

She moved to RF for the "diversity". Really?

Mick McDonnell from River Forest  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 3:49 PM

It's hard to explain how unbelievable this is. It reminds me why I refuse to watch Eddie Murphy movies any more. See this link if you have the stomach for it. https://m.imgur.com/gallery/i0veUYW

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