In Australia, Blackface Is Still Only Slightly Offensive
Last night an Australian variety show aired a skit with five men in blackface performing as the Jackson 5. And the audience cheered! Thank goodness Harry Connick Jr was there to be the voice of reason.
The show was a live reunion special for Hey Hey, It's Saturday, a popular and long-running program down under that was cancelled a decade ago. During their Red Faces segment, which is similar to the American version of The Gong Show, six doctors performed a choreographed number in blackface and afro wigs pretending to be the Jackson 5. Thankfully, one of the judges hit the gong shortly into the number.
But what did the crowd do when they stopped the music. They booed! Harry Connick Jr, one of the guest judges gave the team a zero score and the judge who gonged gave them a one, even though the crowd was roaring to give them a 10! One female judge gave them a 7 out of 10 because she is apparently ignorant or, beause she's a sweet female sitting between two men judging a singing competition she thought she was Paula Abdul and took a handful of pill before the broadcast, so she didn't know better.
The amazing thing is that, as the show tells us, in 1989, the same group doing a very similar act won the competition! So, in 20 years, we've gone from this offensive form of comedy being wildly popular to being still popular with the masses, even though some people know better. In America, blackface is one of those things that you can only show if you're talking about how awful it is because, well, it is pretty awful. Sure, there are culture differences, but it's not like they don't have black folks in Australia who would get pissed off by this.
Luckily, they gave Connick some time at the end of the show to say that he wouldn't have done the show if he knew there was going to be such an act. "[Americans] have spent so much time trying to not make black people not look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we really take it to heart." Wow, and American is being the voice of cultural sensitivity? Australia must be really messed up.