Blackface and stereotypical portrayals of darker-skinned people are unfortunately still alive and well in the Arab mass media and pop culture.
This is a fact that becomes particularly evident when you take a look at the TV shows and series that have flooded screens during Ramadan. So many of these so-called "works of art" feature entire scenes and episodes where white actors appear with their skin painted black.
Not only that, but a few of them also portray people of color in the most offensive and racist manner.
Blackface is "a form of theatrical make-up used predominantly by non-black performers to represent a caricature of a black person."
"Its American origins can be traced to minstrel shows in the 19th century, which saw white actors paint their faces with black grease to negatively portray plantation slaves and free darker-skinned individuals," VOX explained in a 2014 article.
Such performances depicted darker-skinned people "as lazy, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexual, and prone to thievery and cowardice." This played into racial stereotyping in the American society, where people of color were systematically mistreated and dehumanized.
Today, blackface is considered extremely offensive and hurtful to black people around the world because it further perpetuates a racist portrayal of an entire race. This is why featuring blackface in the Arab world's dramas and TV shows - or anywhere else in the world for that matter - is simply unacceptable.
Lebanese series "Prova"
One of the shows that featured blackface this year is a romantic comedy titled Prova.
Starring Lebanese actress Maguy Abu Ghosn and Egyptian Ahmed Fahmy, the first few episodes of the series had a white actress play the role of a black school girl who was bullied over her skin color.
Journalists and people on social media called the series' makers out on the ironic way they tried to highlight the issue of racism in their show. Because where's the sense in speaking out about racism while doing the most racist thing?
Libyan prank show "Hidden Camera with Munira"
The show not only featured a woman in blackface, but also saw her pretend having monkeys as children.
In one episode, the actress - who posed as a woman of Sudanese origin - trapped people in an elevator she exited while leaving behind a baby stroller holding her "supposed babies." People locked in the lift eventually realized there are several monkeys in the pram.
The TV series is currently being aired on Libya Al-Ahrar channel and is sparking outrage across the region. Thousands of Sudanese people are rightfully offended by the way they've been portrayed in the show and are calling for it to be cancelled.
Egyptian prank show "Shaklabaz"
This Ramadan is shaping up to be the most outrageous when it comes to racist portrayals of black people.
Earlier this week, Egyptian actress Shimaa Seif sparked controversy for appearing in blackface and promoting racism in a prank show broadcast on the MBC network. In several episodes of the satirical Shaklabaz program, Seif appeared with her skin painted significantly darker and seemed to mimic the Sudanese accent. As part of her pranks, she annoyed minibus passengers, attempted to steal their phones, and pretended to drink alcohol.
Clips from the show have caused quite the outrage online, with many social media users condemning Seif for appearing in blackface and demeaning Sudanese women.
In response, an official from the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate, Ahmed Ramadan, has lodged a complaint against Seif with the Egyptian National Media Authority, which is in charge of Egyptian state media. The actress has since issued an apology, saying she "didn't intend to mock anybody," but it did little to stop the backlash against her.
Unfortunately, this isn't a new phenomenon in the region
Blackface has been used and misused on Arab screens on multiple occasions over the years.
Saudi actor Nasser Al Qasabi appeared in a blackface in an episode of his hit TV series Tash Ma Tash. During Ramadan 2018, Egyptian comedy series Azmi we Ashgan and Kuwaiti comedy series Block Ghashmara both featured actors who had their skin painted black.