The sketch on ‘Hey Hey Its Saturday’ which aired recently to the disgust of Harry Connick Jnr, involved some ‘entertainers’ painting their faces black in a throwback to a old time sketch. I have no reason to suspect the performers were racist, nor that their intent was to be racist in the sketch.
However I think we should all be offended by it and this is why.
“The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated de jure segregation in all public facilities, with a supposedly “separate but equal” status for black Americans. In reality, this led to treatment and accommodations that were usually inferior to those provided for white Americans, systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages.”
Why is this significant? Because a perfomer called Thomas D Rice performed a racist and derrogatory perfomance utitising ‘black face’ during the 1800’s. The song he sung, which I wont repeat here, was called ‘Jump Jim Crow’ from which the ‘Jim Crow’ segregation laws were named after.
It is all about origins. ‘Black face’ performance was originally a device used by Rice to promote himself through an easy target and stereotype of a group of people. The ‘Jim Crow’ laws were plain unjust yet sprung in part at least from the perception propogated by Rice and other performers of his ilk. They promoted Negroes as ‘buffoonish, lazy, superstitious, cowardly, and lascivious characters, who stole, lied pathologically, and mangled the English language. Early blackface minstrels were all male, so cross-dressing white men also played black women who were often portrayed either as unappealingly and grotesquely mannish; in the matronly, mammy mold; or highly sexually provocative’.