10/30/2013 05:44 EDT | Updated 12/30/2013 05:12 EST

Not Everyone Who Wears Blackface on Halloween Is Racist

When a sharp knife is used over and over again, its edge begins to dull. I'm a little tired of hearing about blackface costumes and how I should be offended by people who are obviously not racists, obviously not trying to mock all human beings who happen to be black and are instead just trying to look like their favourite television character. There is a difference between being racist and just being insensitive, particularly when some people are too sensitive about everything except the things that actually matter.

Context matters. Intentions matter. Not every person who dresses up as their favourite celebrity character (who happens to be black) is hearkening back to the era of the minstrel show or doing so for some other malevolent reason. Nor do I believe, for the record, that the effect is de-facto malevolent or dehumanizing of people of colour. Some of the outrage over innocent people throwing on some dark make-up says more about the racial insecurities of the complainants than the behaviour itself.

If a group of white dudes decide to dress up as a black skinned Jamaican bobsled team, should I be offended? Why, because they aren't 'black' Jamaicans? Jamaica is a multi-racial country. I was at a bar once and this exact thing happened; I felt as thought I "had" to be offended even though, really, I didn't care and thought it was a funny costume. No longer.

Are we to forever be held hostage by what a bunch of white people in the United States decided to do for entertainment in the early 19th century? I have never watched Orange Is The New Black and have no idea who "Crazy Eyes" is, but I doubt seriously that Julianne Hough intended to offend anyone by dressing up as some character from an HBO TV show, however cringe inducing. What Hough did is very different from the human refuse who dressed up as Trayvon Martin or dress up as a generic "black person" that personifies their stereotypes.

Perhaps in the new age, we need to find a term aside from "racist" to describe behaviour that is simply racially insensitive or stupid. At worst, that's all that Julianne Hough, who I had never even heard of prior to two days ago, is guilty of. And a lot of black people aren't really offended by insensitive mistakes by people like Julianne Hough, they're just doing what I had to do in that bar -- acting offended because they believe it's how they are "supposed" to behave.

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