Our intern, Velanie, forwarded us a link to a clip from an Australian variety show called Hey Hey It’s Saturday. In the clip a group called the Jackson Jive perform in blackface. Steel yourself; maybe skip it if you’re not up to being reminded, again, of white racism against blacks.
Sometimes people wonder why black people are not more open or trusting of whites. This is why. Harry Connick Jr., bless his heart, did what he could to try to make it clear that the performance was not acceptable. And, to be fair, the producers (?) gave him an opportunity to object more articulately. Here is a part of what he said at the end of the clip:
I just wanted to say on behalf of my country, I know it was done humorously but we have spent so much time trying to not make Black people look like buffoons that when we see something like that we take it really to heart… if I knew it was gonna be a part of the show I definitely wouldn’t have done it. So I thank you for the opportunity. I give it up cause Daryl said on the break you need to speak as an American. Not as a Black American or a White American but as an American I need to say that, so thank you for the opportunity.
I’m sure that many people appreciated that Connick stood up against blackface. But he is the exception. The host of the show didn’t apologize, he just pleaded ignorance and felt bad that Connick was offended. The rest of the people, including the unrepetant performers, the judges, and (it appears) the majority of the audience, had absolutely no problem with the performance. Further, the majority of Australians are defending the minstrelsy. Mary Elizabeth Williams, at Salon, summarizes:
In a poll on PerthNow.com.au, 81 percent of respondents said the sketch was not racist, with other newspapers clocking in with similar percentages. Punch deputy editor Tory Maguire glumly asserted that “The 2.5 million Australians who were watching were looking for nostalgia, so a returning act like the Jackson Jive was always going to appeal to them.” It’s a sentiment echoed by the show’s host, Daryl Somers, who told reporters that Australian audiences “see the lightness of it.”
Dr. Anand Deva, who appeared as Michael in the sketch, told an Australian radio station this week, “This was really not intended … [to be] anything to do with racism at all…
Couriermail decides it’s a great opportunity for a cheeky pun:
What should be obvious to anyone who isn’t a complete moron is that a little something called the entire history of Western civilization — what with the slavery and the colonization and the genocide — disqualifies us from mocking people for their color as grounds for entertainment. It’s just that simple.
It is just that simple. But so many white people still defend it.
This is why black people don’t trust white people. Because they never know what kind of white person they’re dealing with and it’s not worth the risk because, a good portion of the time, they’re dealing with the host who is “sorry that you were offended” (as if the offense is your own personal defect) or the lady in the audience who is just really excited to be on TV.
—————————Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.