‘I Was Very Young, It Was a Long Time Ago’: Ohio Health Commissioner Apologizes After Blackface Photo Surfaces

Illustration for article titled ‘I Was Very Young, It Was a Long Time Ago’: Ohio Health Commissioner Apologizes After Blackface Photo Surfaces
Screenshot: WKYC Channel 3

An Ohio health commissioner who has called for racism to be recognized as a public health crisis amid the pandemic recently received a visit from the Ghost of White Supremacist Past when a decades-old photo of him wearing blackface was unearthed.

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The investigative team for 19 News recently uncovered a 1990 photo of Cuyahoga County Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan dressed as Buckwheat from the TV show Little Rascals for a Halloween party. His costume choice was bad enough, considering the fact that Buckwheat’s character is widely regarded as a racist stereotype, but it’s much worse once you see the photo.

I mean, look at this shit.

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First, what kind of paint did this man use and why does it look like he melted a bag of Tootsie Rolls over the stove and dipped his face in the skillet? (I’m actually really hoping that’s how he did it.)

And what the fuck is that hair supposed to be? 19 News referred to them as “faux cornrows” which leads me to believe that not a single white person in the history of white people knows what cornrows are supposed to look like.

For example:

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Anyway, we all know what Allan was going for, but his 30-year-old Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood cosplay (and yes, I realize that movie wasn’t out yet...shut up!) has finally caught up with him and now he’s apologizing.

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“I was very young, it was a long time ago,” Allan told 19 News over the phone Tuesday. “That it was clearly wrong. That since then—what I didn’t realize when I was younger is how offensive it is, and I have certainly come to understand that now. That that was very offensive to people, that my eyes have been opened in my work in public health since then.”

“It’s completely unacceptable what I did then,” he continued. “I think that what I’ve done since then and tried to do in my work in public health is to focus on equity and to serve under-resourced communities. And recognize all the injustice.”

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According to Fox 8, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health released a statement Tuesday addressing Allan’s past behavior.

“This situation is an unfortunate reminder of the lack of awareness and understanding that has served to perpetuate the stereotypes of African Americans and people of color in our society,” board members wrote. “The concept of cultural appropriation, while new to many people over the past several years, has existed for centuries and is a tool used to demean and diminish the experiences of those affected.” (I mean, cultural appropriation and racist blackface aren’t really the same issue, but whatever.)

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“In terms of Commissioner Allan’s involvement, we fully appreciate how the actions of a young person can be inappropriate and regrettable,” the statement continued. “We also understand that through education and experience, a person can change for the better.”

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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Wow that Vice article is way old.