Harry Connick Jr. Explains to Australia Why Blackface Performances are Not a Good Idea

From the Seattle PI:

Harry Connick Jr. found himself at the center of a TV scandal Wednesday when he appeared as a guest judge on a popular Australian variety show.

The singer-actor became visibly uncomfortable when a group of doctors did a Jackson Five routine in blackface and Afro wigs on Hey Hey It’s Saturday. The man portraying Michael Jackson, however, was smeared in white makeup.

Connick gave the performance a score of zero and said if it had aired in the United States, the show would have been pulled off the air. While one of the other judges gave the performance a similarly low score, the other complimented the choreography and gave the group a seven.

The variety show’s host, Daryl Sommers, apologized to the crooner at the end of the program, noting that it was insulting to Americans. Connick agreed.

11 Comments

  1. I spent about eight years in australia. granted they have a screwed up situation with aborigines, they don’t have a slavery history like the USA. because of this, I would hear “nigger” casually dropped in conversations by non-blacks. sometimes it was kinda nice to not always be overly PC, but occasionally there were moments like this when an american’s skin just starts to itch.

    i think harry handled this delicate moment as well as he could have, but i’m sure there were some aussies in the audience thinking how up themselves americans are.

  2. “We’ve spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons”.

    It definitely seems like a case of vicious mouth diarreha more than anything, but man does that sound terrible.

    And oh shit, this is on CNN as I’m typing this.

  3. ” granted they have a screwed up situation with aborigines, they don’t have a slavery history like the USA.”

    Why does another country’s history of race have to be the same as another’s to be equally bad? Bigotry is bigotry. Aboriginies suffered (and still suffer) from displacement, land reclamation, bigotry in school, welfare and health, and have had children removed from communities because they were deemed not capable of raising their own.

    Any Aussie (or anyone in the world) who thought HCjr was “up himself” for speaking on behalf of racism the world over really need to re-examine their privilige.

  4. It was a stupid piece of television, re-hashed in a live reunion show from material that first aired 20 years earlier. That doesn’t condone what happened, but a bit of context would have helped from the Seattle piece.

    Intolerance is our biggest problem in Australia. This was an embarrassment that’s caused a furore in our media outlets and on Twitter. And while there a bigger issues to deal with, like the inequalities that still exist for our indigenous population, people seem to get worked up more for this trivial pap than the bigger stories that need addressing.

  5. Rosemary: There’s nothing trivial about any part of a societal conversation about racism – it all becomes part of the bigger whole.

  6. AmandaNZ: My point was that the word “nigger” doesn’t have the same weight in Australia as it does in the USA because of their lack of a slave history. So the word is more freely thrown around. I didn’t mention anything about either situation being more or less bad, but I apologize for the misunderstanding.

  7. Jarvina: thanks for that link. another piece of classy aussie journalism. although australia is the one country that truly felt like home for me, i will never miss their press.

  8. I lol’ed when Michael Jackson jumped in wearing ‘white face’. I thought it was silly and good-natured.

    Harry Connick Jr, I’d like you to meet Robert Downey Jr (care of Tropic Thunder). Blackface is not as taboo as it used to be.

    No, really. I get America being all uptight about race, and how no one can even write the word nigger, let alone say it. Instead you say “the N-word”. And I get HCj feeling he needs to stand up against something he’s been taught his whole life to be racist and wrong.

    But really, black-face doesn’t mean to us what it means to you. Race and our attitude towards race, have evolved.

    Yeah, we know you Americans were the last western country to abolish slavery, and we know you only gave your black citizens equal voting rights less than half a century ago. So it’s all still fresh to you and you feel guilty. We get it.

    But for the rest of the world it’s a non-issue. The only way this is insulting to Americans is that it reminds Americans how racist they are as a culture…

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