Crikey Clarifier

Oct 8, 2009

What’s all the fuss about ‘blackface’?

In light of all the scandal following last night's Hey Hey it's Saturday, which featured a blackface skit, Crikey intern Melanie Mahony clarifies the history of blackface. Is it racist?

Australia, and the world’s media, is currently up in arms about “that” skit on last night’s most watched program Hey Hey It’s Saturday. Guest Harry Connick Jnr was mortified by the performance in which a group of esteemed surgeons painted their faces black (and one white) in a tribute to the Jackson 5.


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43 thoughts on “What’s all the fuss about ‘blackface’?

  1. Greg Angelo

    Having watched the performance on the Channel 7 news, I cannot see what all of the fuss is about. The show is a caricature and should be seen as such. The act was a bunch of young blokes having a bit of fun, and sending up Michael Jackson which in no way is racist, if you assume that being racist means that you actively discriminate against somebody different from your racialall social background.

    Recognising differences in behaviour and attitudes between different ethnic backgrounds is not in itself racist unless you assume that any differentiation whatsoever is to be proscribed. Zionists have made an art form of criticising anybody who disagrees with them as being racist, and the racist epithet is overworked. The critics should have “Bex and a good lie down”.

    It should be noted despite the Channel 7 beat up 80% of the respondents to their online survey found no offence.

  2. Bullmore's Ghost

    Just another case of Hey, Hey, It’s Yesterday living up to its name.

  3. Jon Murray

    I’m a bit surprised at the surpise that HHIS should do something offensive. The show was always loaded down with homophobia, misogyny and racism – the core values of its audience.

  4. Venise Alstergren

    Kerry, still up there with the angels? What a stunning crack about Hey, Hey, it’s Yesterday living up to its name. Olé

  5. bakerboy

    I just saw on the 6pm news the clip of Connick impersonating a black, Southern preacher. Hypocrite, go home buddy. Alex

  6. bakerboy

    Connick’s feigned reaction on HHIS was purely aimed at his US audiences. This bloke is from good ole Louisiana where racism is still rampant. Connick has done good works for blacks in his home town, so he wants to keep his rep in goood shape. Alex

  7. Bullmore's Ghost

    As for Connick’s reaction, I suggest that any thinking Australian guest on an American TV show that lampooned Australian Aboriginal culture today in a way that was as strongly offensive as “blackface” is, would feel similarly uncomfortable if not outraged.

    As for the clip of Connick impersonating a black preacher, he was doing so in the company of blacks, thaus was evidently an accepted part of the act in that situation. Hardly the same as a crude attempt to portray “blackface”.

  8. Malcolm Street

    I think Crikey’s editorial hit the nail on the head. Blackface here obviously doesn’t have the justifiably sinister connotations it has the in the US, which I wasn’t aware of until this article. I remember the Black and White Minstrel show as a kid and from what I recall there was nothing racist about it – it was an innocent music show using what we’d now regard as a rather insensitive presentation.

    The sketch (which I didn’t see live) I understand was an update of one the same group did twenty years ago on the show, with the difference that then “Michael Jackson” was also in blackface – that, I assume, was the joke. I don’t think there was any racist intent on the part of the participants, or of HHIS. Quite simply, no-one realised how attitudes had changed and in particular (and the point of the Crikey editorial) that via the Internet this could be seen around the world where it might be seen in a different light and could become a cause celebre.

    Whatever, it’s being seen internationally as yet more evidence that we’re a nation of insular, racist hicks.

    Moral? I dunno… How do you guarantee that a sketch you put to air (particularly when comedy can frequently be edgy) that is acceptable in your own society will not cause a furor somewhere else in the world? Should you even try to do this?

  9. bakerboy

    Bullmore – people in glass houses………! In his skit, Connick was sending up a black preacher, the guys on HHIS were sending up a group of black entertainers.

  10. Nick of McEwen

    i reckon this is a ripper piece – very comprehensive and all the more impressive considering it was done on one day’s research. Well done Melanie. To anyone who still doesn’t get it – it’s the history, stupid.

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