A photo of a political candidate in blackface has two political parties at odds in Monroe.
NBC Connecticut has contacted Justin Orlando, a Republican candidate for the Monroe Board of Education, and has had no response. But in a long Facebook post, he didn’t give up on dressing up as a black character for Halloween. And as this vacation approaches, some say it’s a reminder that changing skin color isn’t appropriate for a costume.
“Once you cross that line and color your face, you step into this era of the minstrel and the minstrel shows representations that were meant to be negative,” explained Dr. Robert Sanders of New Haven University.
It’s a central issue in Monroe, where a photo of Orlando has surfaced.
“When I first saw the photo, I had a very visceral reaction,” said Nicholas Kapoor, member of the Board of Education. “It was extremely upsetting for me.”
Kapoor, a Democrat, is a current board member and came across the photo in late summer
“We have black and brown students in Monroe. We have Latinx students in Monroe, we have LGBTQIA plus students in Monroe,” Kapoor said.
The Democratic Town Committee calls on Orlando to withdraw from the race. In a statement on the Monroe Republicans website, Orlando said, in part:
“To me, there is nothing racial about it… I dressed up as my favorite character from one of my favorite TV shows and in doing so, I was showing respect for that character. Not once did I consider it a racial decision… but they all saw it as such.
See his full statement below.
When asked if Orlando and others paid tribute by changing their skin color, Dr Sanders replied that it was not that quick.
“There is no honor in blackface. Let’s start there,” he said. “This was originally done as part of a negative portrayal of blacks to entertain whites through buffoonery or distortion.”
“White artists would dress in ragged clothes, put that cork and shoe polish on their faces, and then do these distorted imitations of what they thought black people were doing,” he explained.
It is the vestiges of these representations which are at the base of the stereotypes of blacks that some people convey today. The Monroe Republican Town Committee issued a statement not long ago that said in part: “It is clear that his intention was to portray a television character he admired, and nothing more.”
Justin Orlando’s full statement
“There is a huge irony in being harshly accused of prejudice by people who actually exhibit the same behavior when they use photos to articulate their prejudice. lived my 42 years of life simply by a photo. Choosing to racialize a costume is exactly that… it’s a choice. To me, there is nothing racial about it… I dressed up as one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite TV shows and, in doing so, showed respect for that character. Not once did I consider it a racial decision… but they all saw it as such. Not because they know me or have contacted me to discuss any of these issues. , but because they choose to racialize this issue to improve their chances in this election. Where does it end? I named 2 of my children after my favorite athletes growing up, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Is it “ownership” or is it an honor to them based on the impact they have had on me? “
“Well I think this has helped raise the profile of what the Monroe Democratic Party has become under Nick Kapoor’s leadership and I don’t think most Democrats in this town agree with the steps taken by the Monroe CT Dems fb page and hopefully they will consider this in the voting booth on November 2nd.
“These actions show that there is no civil speech, just a judgment. The accusations here are quite serious, but the person (s) behind this message have never spoken to me in their life and have never contacted to discuss these photos before posting their harsh accusations Post photos of me over 8 years ago displaying a symbol commonly used in what is called “the circle game” and claiming it is a sign supremacist is both reckless and irresponsible. These are all smear campaign attempts and frankly, that’s all wrong with our political system. No discussion, just empty social media posts for that people are hiding behind.
“I know that in 35 years of living in Monroe, the one thing that no one who knows me would ever accuse me of is showing prejudice. I was raised to accept people by their merit and character. … NEVER by race. That is why I can accept your criticisms… I am convinced that I have lived my life without prejudice and that I have had a positive impact on this community.
“The real shame about this is that we have lost focus on what is most important and that is, the school children in Monroe. I chose to run for this volunteer position because that I saw the damage that public policy has had on our children and wanted to be a part of the solution, especially for parents who wanted their right to choose honored and respected.
“While I don’t expect anyone to accept this offer, I am open to discussing my position on any issue with anyone at any time. learn more about opposing views and what motivates them Unlike the individual behind this post, I do not hide my positions and I will never demonstrate the lack of integrity shown in their character assassination attempt. commitment to Monroe’s parents who believe their voices should be heard remains and my determination to keep that commitment has never been stronger. To all of those who have shown their immense support throughout this smear campaign, I do can never thank you enough, you are all very much appreciated!
“Ultimately, the voters will decide on November 2. I hope I win their vote based on the principles I stand for and what I am committed to providing to parents and children in Monroe.”