Friday, October 9, 2009

A question about "Hey Hey It's Saturday" and Blackface

According to this country singer/actor Harry Connick Jr. was serving as a judge for the Australian talent show "Hey Hey It's Saturday" when one of the performances was of a group impersonating Michael Jackson. As part of the act each member of the groups dressed wigs, a single glove, and blackface. Yes I said blackface.

For those who may not know to be in blackface is to cover one's face in black or brown makeup in order to appear to be African American. This practice dates back to a time when it was common place for whites to don such makeup for the sake of "acting black" for the entertainment of white people (look here for more).

Thankfully Connick Jr. spoke up and let the performers and audience know just how offensive the skit was. He also commented that if he had known about the skit before time he would have turned down the opportunity to be a judge on the show that night.

That kinda worries me.

Imagine if he had turned down that offer and someone who would not have spoken up had ended up on that panel that night. More than likely this performance would not have had the spotlight put on it like Connick Jr did. That means that more than likely this racist act would have been performed, the crowd would have cheered, the judges would have critiqued, and show would have went on as planned. That is not a good thing.

Daryl Somers, host of "Hey Hey It's Saturday", said in apology to Connick Jr.:
"It didn't occur to me until later -- I think we may have offended you with that and I deeply apologize on behalf of all of us. Because I know, your countrymen, it's an insult to have a blackface routine."

I wonder if it "didn't occur to him until later" because he didn't think that as a white man Connick would not have said anything?

Most of time in these talent shows someone (producers, hosts, directors, etc...) knows what the performers are doing ahead of time if for no other reason than to check for offensive content and make sure the show stays age appropriate (at least in the States anyway). Imagine if say, Morgan Freeman, had been on the panel. Assuming someone had knowledge of what that group was going to do would they have somehow realized sooner that such an act was offensive? And if so would they have taken them out of the lineup? If it played out like that we would be spared a racist act but at the same time they would be spared a quick bit of education on the offensiveness of blackface.

So while the fact that this performance happened means there are still people out there who lack proper education on racism the fact that it did happen might have hopefully helped education some people on racism.


Sonja Newcombe said...

I will admit, I am very quickly tiring of everyone being offended by small things, and it is difficult for me to separate this from those. I see all-too often the feminists getting up in arms over pathetic stuff like signs stating "men working above".

This was very bad taste. It has not been long enough since segregation of the races was abolished, but I sincerely hope that one day we CAN emulate one another for light-hearted jokes and a bit of a giggle.

Danny said...

Yes Sonja but there are lots of old wounds between the different walks of life and new ones being created everyday. I fear it will be a VERY long time before they heal.

Meadester said...

The great irony of this is that for the last 15 to 20 years of his life Michael Jackson lived in whiteface. That is, he had himself surgically altered to look like a grotesque caricature of a white person.

Danny said...

Perhaps that does not excuse what those guys did and the fact the crowd went along with it.