Al Jolson
All Posts,  News Opinions

Black Face Leads To Red Faces

The term “red faced” means embarrassment here in Australia if not elsewhere and the red faces segment of the show “Hey Hey It’s Saturday” is derived from that meaning.  In the red faces segment contestants vie with each other to perform so badly they are an embarassment to themselves and a source of amusement for viewers.

So people who can’t sing or dance, for example, get up there and sing or dance and generally make absolute fools of themselves for our amusement and, of course, the money the show gives to the winner of the segment.

Recently a racially mixed group of five men donned afro wigs and painted four of their faces black and the other one white then they sang and danced in an embarrassingly bad impersonation of the Jackson Five.

The skit was first performed 20 years ago at which time it was considered funny because not only was their attempt to sing and dance like the Jackson Five outrageously bad but their attempt to look like the group was also outrageously bad.

Their latest performance would probably have had the same effect on Australian audiences today as it did 20 years ago if not for the presence of an American judge.

The Australian audience laughed and thought “I cannot believe those men would make such idiots of themselves AGAIN!”

Harry Connick Junior thought “Here’s a chance to get myself a massive amount of media attention and make myself look good in the eyes of my countrymen in America”.

If you ask me, the whole thing was a set up, I think Harry was well aware the skit was going to be shown.  I think he saw it in rehearsals.  I think he even told the shows producers it would be considered offensive in America and he would be expected to object to it if it went on.  I think the shows producers said go ahead and object – any publicity is better than no publicity.  I think Harry agreed to appear, knowing the act was going to be on, because both he and the shows producers wanted the publicity a controversial incident would bring them.

As a result there have been red faces all around.

The group are red faced with embarrassment over having offended people.  Americans are red faced with indignation and Australians are red faced with anger at being judged racist by people who are no saints in that department themselves.

Other commentators have pointed out many things such as the fact that only 8 percent of African Americans have been able to marry outside their own race compared to more than 60 percent of the indigenous Australians.

The insults and racist comments have been flowing thick and fast in both countries with Americans accusing Australians of being racist and stupid and Australians accusing Americans of the same plus of having no sense of humour.

There is no need for me to chew over that stuff.  My thoughts on the matter follow a different path.

I’m wondering how much of the American outrage is due to them being ultra-sensitive to anything that could be interpreted as an insult to their black president.

I’m also wondering why they have chosen to call painting ones face black to perform as a black person “Black face” when the people who did it originally were called “Minstrels”.

Why have they set the terms “Minstrel” and “Minstrel show” aside and coined an entirely new name, a pretty racist name at that if you ask me, to focus their now politically correct disapproval of this behaviour on?

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