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.”

Read More: New York Daily News -- 'Maybe I would be a gay person': Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind makes odd remark after apologizing for dressing in blackface for Purim

 

From all the hoopla surrounding the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets to the new Barclays Center, one would think that they are the first significant basketball team the borough has ever seen.

Not so. Brooklyn was home to a historic basketball first, way back in 1906, when the the Smart Set Athletic Club of Brooklyn, an African American social and sports organization, launched the first formally organized and independently run all-black basketball team.

The team, nicknamed the Grave Diggers because of their on-court dominance, played their first game in 1907 as part of a dynamic all-black Olympian Athletic League.

The Smart Set Brooklyn Basketball Team

The Smart Set Brooklyn Basketball Team


It was the beginning of the Black Fives Era, the period of prior to the racial integration of the National Basketball Association, during which dozens of all-black teams emerged and thrived in New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.

Smart Set basketball games included music and dancing until well past midnight. “Never in the history of Brooklyn, has such a galaxy of colored persons assembled under one roof,” exclaimed the New York Age, a leading African American newspaper, one such event.

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