C ‘mon Man- NYC Assemblyman dons black face for Purim Party

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) created a firestorm by painting his face black to resemble an Afro American basketball player

In case you’ve been living under a rock next to the GEICO guy, Hikind created a stir by paying a professional make- up artist to apply black face to his face to celebrate Purim. Yup, you heard me, a long time NY state assemblyman from Brooklyn paid someone to paint his face black.

Mr. Hikind had hundreds of guests to his home on Sunday, and as he said he had done in past years, he enlisted a professional makeup artist to help him with his costume. When his grown son, Yoni, asked him if he could post a photograph of the outfit on Facebook, Mr. Hikind said he did not see a problem with it.” [Source: NY Times].

The following are a sampling of quotes attributed to the out-of-touch, insensitive, veteran state assemblyman:

  • He initially brushed off the attention, writing on his blog that…’Yes, I wore a costume on Purim and hosted a party. Most of the people who attended also wore costumes. Everywhere that Purim was being celebrated, people wore costumes. It was Purim. People dress up.’ “
  • I am intrigued that anyone who understands Purim—or for that matter understands me—would have a problem with this. This is political correctness to the absurd. There is not a prejudiced bone in my body.’ “
  • In the interview, Mr. Hikind said that he was flabbergasted by the outcry, and that he suspected many did not understand the tradition of dressing up for Purim.”
  • My wife, you saw the picture, she was the devil,’ Mr. Hikind said. ‘Believe me, she’s not the devil.’ ”
  • A lot of people just don’t realize, on Purim, in a sense, forgive me for saying this, you do crazy stuff,’ he added. ‘It’s not done, God forbid, to laugh, to mock, to hurt, to pain anyone.’ ”
  • But Mr. Hikind said he had learned a lesson from the blackface episode.  ‘Next year I was thinking I’d be an Indian,’ he said. ‘But you know, I’ve changed my mind about that. I don’t think that’s a good idea. Somebody will be offended.’ ”

Outcry

Over the course of the day, a parade of elected officials condemned Mr. Hikind. Several candidates for mayor of New York City demanded that he apologize, and the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, called his actions “inappropriate and offensive.”

Assemblyman Karim Camara, the chairman of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said the outcry on Monday “wasn’t just about being politically correct,” and that he hoped Mr. Hikind realized that blackface “has a very painful history to many people.”

“A lot of black leaders and clergy — elected officials, everyday citizens — were very upset or offended, and had a lot of questions as to, from their point of view, how could someone be so insensitive,” he said.

In a letter to Mr. Hikind, the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus wrote that his costume and his initial defense of it were “deeply disturbing,” and asked him to meet with community leaders.

Even the Anti-Defamation League weighed in, saying that Mr. Hikind “showed terrible judgment.” And State Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who was once chief of staff to Mr. Hikind, and now represents many of the same constituents, said the costume was regrettable.

“Purim is a happy time, a happy day, and it should not be at anyone else’s expense,” Mr. Felder said.”

What is “blackface”

Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, in which performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the “happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation” or the “dandifiedcoon“.  In 1848, blackface minstrel shows were an American national art of the time, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience.Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right, until it ended in the United States with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.[3]

Blackface was an important performance tradition in the American theater for roughly 100 years beginning around 1830. It quickly became popular elsewhere, particularly so in Britain, where the tradition lasted longer than in the US, occurring on primetime TV as late as 1978 (The Black and White Minstrel Show) and 1981. In both the United States and Britain, blackface was most commonly used in the minstrel performance tradition, but it predates that tradition, and it survived long past the heyday of the minstrel show. White blackface performers in the past used burnt cork and later grease paint or shoe polish to blacken their skin and exaggerate their lips, often wearing woolly wigs, gloves, tailcoats, or ragged clothes to complete the transformation. Later, black artists also performed in blackface.

Stereotypes embodied in the stock characters of blackface minstrels not only played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes and perceptions worldwide, but also in popularizing black culture.In some quarters, the caricatures that were the legacy of blackface persist to the present day and are a cause of ongoing controversy. Another view is that “blackface is a form of cross-dressing in which one puts on the insignias of a sex, class, or race that stands in binary opposition to one’s own.”

By the mid-20th century, changing attitudes about race and racism effectively ended the prominence of blackface makeup used in performance in the U.S. and elsewhere. It remains in relatively limited use as a theatrical device and is more commonly used today as social commentary or satire. Perhaps the most enduring effect of blackface is the precedent it established in the introduction of African-American culture to an international audience, albeit through a distorted lens.Blackface’s groundbreaking appropriation, exploitation, and assimilation of African-American culture—as well as the inter-ethnic artistic collaborations that stemmed from it—were but a prologue to the lucrative packaging, marketing, and dissemination of African-American cultural expression and its myriad derivative forms in today’s world popular culture.

[Source:  Wikipedia].

“Leather Lady” reacts to gay bar production using blackface

 

Here’s a comment by “Vamos” ona public forum, City- Data.com:

“Mostly because in a historical context “blackface” was used to depict grossly exaggerated stereotypes – often to deride or ridicule blacks and/or black culture. So some, using “blackface” is akin to referring to black babies as “gator bait” because it denotes a similarly dehumanizing context.

Commentary

Dov Hikind, a veteran democratic assemblyman from an orthodox community in Brooklyn, leaves us with two options. He is either a racist or a very stupid man.  This guy is a public figure, a veteran lawmaker, lives in Brooklyn and works in Albany, where the gathering of news is a combat sport.

I was going to publish a long rant about the evils of racism, or the evils of public figures that openly flaunt their stupidity. But, I decided that Hikind’s hurtful, insensitive, behavior speaks volumes all by itself.

Mr. Hikind…This is not about the people who know you, knowing you  are are not a racist. Nor, is it about whether or not you are a racist. This is about a public figure painting his face black, putting on an Afro wig to look like those, as you say, “black basketball players.” This is about the anger you’ve  engendered in people who witness or read about your bad behavior, and the disrespect your behavior heaped upon an already reputation-challenged NY State Legislature. C’mon man.

What do you think. Take 5 seconds to answer this short poll. How would you describe Hikind’s behavior?

February 26, 2013- UPDATE- 2 hours ago…Hikind offers apology on his blog

A Heartfelt and Sincere Apology

Some people have marveled at what they’ve characterized as my insensitivity in wearing the costume I wore on Purim. My initial reaction in learning of this was one of shock because my intention was never to hurt or make fun of anyone. Those who know me—in politics and in my personal life—already know this. But others who don’t know me have expressed hurt and outrage, so I am writing to address that once and for all. Unintentional as they were, I recognize now that the connotations of my Purim costume were deeply offensive to many.
I am sincerely sorry that I have hurt anyone. I apologize for the pain that I have caused anyone by this incident, and by any remarks that I have made in connection with it. It genuinely pains me that I have pained any human being. That’s not who I am, not who I want to be. I sincerely hope that this note will soothe any hurt feelings.”

 

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