Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New York Assemblyman Wears Blackface

You know they say history repeats itself and so it has again. New York assemblyman, Dov Hikind, wore blackface to a Purim Party and caused quite a stir. The Jewish Assemblyman did it in fun and so no one at the party would recognize him. The rest of his costume was a basketball uniform and an Afro wig. He was shocked to learn that people found it offensive and apologized, saying in hindsight he would have worn something else. He added, it never crossed his mind for a second that anyone would be offended. However, his apology seem to lack genuine sincerity to me because he referred to the criticism as “political correctness” and absurd. Apparently, Dov Hikind is clueless as to the historical significance why this is so offensive to many, and particularly to people in the black community. He can always call Ted Dansen and ask him.

I don’t know about you, but I recall rather vividly, the harsh criticism directed at Ted when he was dating Whoopie Goldberg and attended an event wearing blackface. It was supposed to be funny. Whoopie and Ted thought it was funny…but all hell broke loose and it was all over the news for a very long time. Many people had plenty to say about it back then. But even if Hikind’s memory isn’t as good as mine (which stinks, by the way), there have been recent similar occurrences of actors wearing blackface for fun and getting criticized. Tom Hanks was criticized, not for wearing blackface, but for being in a fundraiser video with a person who was wearing blackface back in 2004. The fallout from the video still plagues him today and it wasn‘t even his fault. Hanks didn’t know a parent was going to wear the offensive costume and appear in the video with him. And one year ago, Billy Crystal was criticized for wearing blackface and impersonating Sammy Davis Jr. at the Oscars, which caused a lot of controversy. So for the assemblyman to “play dumb” and say he didn’t realize it was offensive, doesn’t fly with me.

Oh, one more thing, we can add hypocrisy to the assemblyman’s list of character flaws. It seems that just earlier this month, Hikind criticized fashion designer, John Galliano, for dressing like a Hasidic Jew with a long jacket and curly side locks. He felt Galliano was mocking his people. Funny how people don’t like it when the shoe is on the other foot. How can he not see the two situations as at least the same thing? Personally, I think the blackface is worse because of all the history that is tied into it. Maybe he has no clue?

Historically, wearing blackface dates as far back as the 1830’s and was prevalent in the entertainment industry. It played a significant role in creating stereotypes, and misconceptions about blacks, as well as causing negative perceptions and prejudices. It was considered a socially acceptable way for white people to express their racist attitudes and feelings. If you are interested, Wikipedia has long, detailed explanation. If I had Hikind’s email, I would send him the link.

Get a clue Hikind.

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