UPDATE: Jewish comedian Jon Stewart led his satire news show "The Daily Show" with a bit on Don Hikind's blackface during Purim, then followed it with a segment with Jessica Williams about "The War on Purim." Watch:
Brooklyn Assemblyman Don Hikind (middle). Image via the New York Daily News
A report from the New York Daily News surfaced ugly pictures of Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind at a party celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim in blackface, additionally donning an oversized wig, dark sunglasses, and orange shirt, in an attempt to look like (in his words) a "black basketball star."
Hikind later apologized for the costume, but called the criticism "political correctness to the absurd" and later intimated that he might "be a gay person next year" at the next costume party.
Blackface has a deep-seated, intertwined history with racism in the United States. Hikind's decision to physically imitate a "black basketball star" becomes even more puzzling when you consider that this is the first year his borough welcomes a professional basketball team, the Brooklyn Nets, with a roster filled with young black men (one of whom who just won the Black Youth Empowerment Special Leadership Award in his hometown), a black general manager who was once named one of the 101 most Influential Minorities in Sports by Sports Illustrated, and a commitment to honoring black history in the borough.
Hikind contends that he was just trying to look like a "black basketball star," but, what star, exactly? The oversized wig, sunglasses, and orange shirt don't conjure images of any specific player or team. No, Hikind's costume was a lazy generalization of black stereotypes all mish-mashed into one awful mask, that served to dehumanize, rather than respect. It's similarly disheartening to see Hikind's brushing, excusatory comments, making it seem as if it were a prank that merely just went wrong or was misinterpreted, rather than acknowledging the social history that makes blackface -- particularly by a publicly elected official -- inappropriate.
“It is racist,” said firebrand Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn). Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said, “The history of the blackface minstrel show is something deeply painful in the African-American community.”