Opinion: The Project hosts on why blackface's history shows it's never okay

OPINION: It's been labelled "disgusting" and "racist" - but while a Taranaki Lions Club had to apologise for a parade float carrying people in blackface, an online poll found almost of half of us seem fine with it.

So perhaps it's time for us Kiwis to have a quick history lesson. 

Blackface started as an American theatrical tradition during the slavery era. 

Performers would paint their faces with charcoal, chuck on a wig and basically lampoon the lives of enslaved Africans for the amusement of the townsfolk. 

By the 1860s, African-Americans were finally allowed to perform onstage themselves. 

So you would think it's problem solved, right? Wrong. They were only allowed on stage if they wore blackface too.

Black and white minstrel shows were huge, and introduced the blackface caricature to the rest of the world. All your old favourites were into it: Bugs Bunny, Bing Crosby and Judy Garland.

By the 20th Century, the blackface tradition only served to reinforce the negative stereotypes it carried.

Which is why so many people find it surprising, dodgy, or downright offensive when it still pops up today. 

Look, no one's trying to stop us dressing up - a strategically-placed silver fern can make all the difference but understandably, towing a trailer of racist caricatures from the past won't make it across town without copping some criticism. 

Watch the full story from The Project in the video above.