Brownface was a term altogether unfamiliar to me. I grappled for comprehension. The closest term I had available to use as a reference was Blackface. But that couldn’t be true, right? Yes, Governor Mitt Romney was appearing on a staple Latin-American television network, Univison. And yes, at first glance, the hue of his face appeared to be darker. But did Governor Romney really use make up to appear relatable to a Latino audience?
The Hispanic and Latin-American communities within the U.S—the fastest growing minority in America—have been and are still being wooed by the presidential candidates. But Governor Romney wouldn’t do such a thing, especially with the entire hidden video hullabaloo (where he stated that his job is to not worry about 47% of people who will not vote for him) would he? Had the inner circle of pundits surrounding Governor Romney influenced him to take such a superficial approach for a more favorable appeal? Was this an impromptu attempt, on Romney’s behalf, to show that he’s ‘down with the brown?’ Or could this have been just a case of an overly heavy-handed use of makeup foundation?
Many have already commented on this, some blaming Governor Romney, others the makeup artist he used. There are many unknown factors concerning Governor Romney’s alleged Brownface incident, making the subject highly debatable. My own family has been divided on the topic. My Cousin, an HR administrator living in Florida, defended the governor. “He was outside in the sun,” she said. “So of course he’s going to look a lot brighter.” I showed her a picture of Governor Romney, indoors, at another appearance. “Well, the filter of the camera could be off.” It’s true that images vary from camera to camera. But then my mother, a retired former national Mary Kay director living in Texas, chimed in. “Why did Governor Romney allow someone to do such a terrible job, makeup-wise? The skin tone is too beige. He needed a more ivory foundation.” I’m aware that the kind of makeup used, especially under the harsh and intense lights of any staged event, is a bit more heavy-duty—more so than the regular day-to-day kind, but…?
On Sept 19th, 2012, Mitt Romney was the first to appear at the University of Miami on an Univision hosted series of events: “El Gran Encuentro,” or “Meet the Candidates” (President Obama appeared the following evening). Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas addressed the audience and Governor Romney in Spanish, while he answered in English. They spoke on many topics: Romney’s 47% comments, immigration reform, education reform, the definition of marriage in respect to the issue of same-sex marriages, and the role of the Spanish language in America. These are all very substantive issues, especially to the Hispanic and Latin-American communities within the U. S. And since these communities comprise more than 16% of the whole population, the question remains if this voting clout somehow fires up an irresistible need to visually pander to the masses of people that are generally perceived as brown? In this election season, the level of competition is high. I’m reminded of what my little league coach used to say in his philosophical attempt to motivate: “The bitch about competition is the vice of one-upmanship. Now go destroy them!”
Both candidates were eloquent and receptive to their hosts. Both candidates were eager to get direct access to such an influential part of the populace; Univision had asked the Commission on Presidential Debates to schedule another debate that focused on Hispanic issues. I agree that only three presidential debates may be too few, especially to ask the right questions needed of any potential candidate. However, I don’t necessarily agree that the debates should be focused on any particular demographic. Doesn’t that line of action or thought—appealing to a particular and individual category of people—foster, at the very least, a certain level of divisiveness? So, while I tried to focus on the particular questions Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas asked of Governor Romney, I couldn’t help but get distracted by his distinct hue, a bit orangey?
Distracting as I might’ve viewed Governor Romney’s appearance, I was glad that attention was drawn to the conversations had on Univision. But after viewing both candidates, there are some things I found more distracting than questionable skin tone. A main one was how Governor Romney restated, confidently and unapologetically, for all to review his record. He framed his record as a pristine explanation for his unspecified policies and as a sufficient summary of qualifications for the presidency.
This was the only clear explanation he was willing to offer.
In his closing speech Governor Romney emphasized, as then governor of Massachusetts, working “across the aisle” with his predominately democratic legislature. Great. But did he also keep his policies to himself?
I agree with Governor Romney about reviewing a candidate’s record. Both Governor Romney and President Obama’s record should be reviewed, particularly in past and current key votes. It’s good due diligence to do so. But what stood out most was the distinct clearness of Governor Romney’s declaration to the viewers, the Hispanic and Latin-American viewers: “I appreciate your vote. I need your vote. Get out there and vote on November 6th.”