NOLA Native Harry Connick Doesn’t Like Blackface Humor

It’s caused a big stir in Australia where it occurred, and where they pride themselves as being multicultural–except when it comes to Aborigines or Blacks.

From the CBC:

American performer Harry Connick Jr. was serving as guest judge for a reunion edition of the long-running show Hey Hey It’s Saturday Night and voiced his disapproval over the musical skit, performed on Wednesday.

The “Jackson Jive” performance featured five men with black makeup smeared over their faces and wearing exaggerated black Afro wigs dancing and singing along with another man, who had stark white makeup smeared over his face and was dressed in a costume reminiscent of Michael Jackson.

The men, all doctors, first performed the skit on the show about 20 years ago while they were medical students.


Connick Jr., an actor and celebrated musician and bandleader from New Orleans, gave the performers a score of zero and noted that if he had known of it in advance, he wouldn’t have agreed to appear on the show.

“If they turned up looking like that in the United States … it’d be like ‘Hey, hey there’s no more show,” the singer said after the skit.

What’s even more interesting is that the Jackson Jive were the brainchild of an Indian plastic surgeon, Anand Deva, who was indignant about charges of racism. Fact is, Asians can absorb racist and color attitudes, inter/intracultural or otherwise, towards Africans and African Americans. Even in Japan, some are loathe to give up toiletries with caricatures of grinning darkies on their labels.

In some circles in the feminist community, it was called horizontal oppression.

“I am an Indian, and five of the six of us are from multicultural backgrounds and to be called a racist…I don’t think I have ever been called that ever in my life before,” Deva told Australian press.

Deva probably never knew that the Little Black Sambo books were originally a racist caricature of Tamil Indian children and were later turned towards African Americans.

Now offended Aussies are saying that Connick was being two-faced, when he played a jackleg preacher on Mad TV thirteen years back. The problem with this argument is, Connick wasn’t in blackface; he was trying to emulate the black minister from whom he had taken instruction and inspiration.

Blacking up is not the same as emulating motions, voice, or hairstyle. Blacking up means that you are embodying the people you are putting down. You are stereotyping them, distorting who they really are. Such distortions has shaped perceptions of and prejudices about black people even now. Such depictions die hard, which is why so many Aussies are jumping to the side of the Jackson Jive. I know I critique what I watch on television and even talk back to the screen. With some of these Aussies, they’ve grown inured to these racist depictions that they don’t react. They collude with the depiction, which makes one wonder how they continue to interact with Aborigines, even those who are biracial.

Minstrelsy and darky iconography have gone underground in the U.S., but it flares up from time to time in advertising and even on shows like Saturday Night Live. It’s never truly gone away, but it is commonly thought of as racist. If I see it, I have to wonder exactly what the point is. And if I am offended, I am not going to buy it.

I’m glad that Harry Connick, who may be limited even in his understanding of American racism, has raised such a stir, even among Aussie politicians. As far as I am concerned, he was raised halfway right. Let the education begin, and let it never end.

~ by blksista on October 8, 2009.

2 Responses to “NOLA Native Harry Connick Doesn’t Like Blackface Humor”

  1. […] It’s caused a large stir in Australia where it occurred, as well as where they honour themselves as being multicultural–except when it comes to Aborigines or Blacks. From a CBC: American actor Harry Connick Jr. was portion as guest decider for a reunion book of a long-running uncover Hey Hey It’s Saturd … Blog Source […]


  2. What do you have against Asians? Seems like the pot calling the kettle black – no pun intended


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