The Problematic Nature of Mardi Gras

In Roach’s “History, Memory, and Performance,” he talks about New Orlean’s Mardi Gras festival culture and the history of discrimination that the floats and parades are rooted in. This is something that caught me off-guard, as I was always taught growing up that these were respectful and “good” celebrations of culture. This is perhaps because I was taught that they were a French celebration, which completely whitewashes the significant role that cultural-mixing played in forming New Orleans and its traditions. Roach’s article caused me to view the Mardi Gras festivities in a different light and to reconsider other instances of cultural celebrations. While at face value, it may seem as though these festivities are important as they bring awareness to a group of people and their traditions, not all representations and performances are positive. I did not realize that the Mardi Gras groups were appropriating Black culture through racist means, such as blackface and minstrelsy. The inappropriate and racist nature of blackface is something that is being called attention to more in today’s society and the news, and for good reason. This negative idea of Mardi Gras seemed similar to how some Irish people take offense in the depiction of the Irish as drunks St. Patrick’s Day, which is often appropriated as a day where people can get drunk in the spirit of the Irish. It is important for society today to realize that representation is not enough; the quality of the way that people are remembered is just as and perhaps even more important.