The day after Purim (Monday), Orthodox Jewish Assemblyman Dov Hikind apologized for his choice of blackface as his Purim costume. But that didn’t quite satisfy the folks he offended, the fuming African American community leaders who probably never tatsed a decent hamantashen.
Because, let’s face it (no pun intended), in addition to his forthright twitter apology: “I am sincerely sorry that I have hurt anyone,” and “I apologize for the pain that I have caused anyone by this incident, and by any remarks that I have made in connection with it,” Hikind, according to Gothamist, also said stuff like “sorry if you’re offended,” and (on Zev Brenner’s radio show) “Would that be OK Zev? If I played a gay person next year?”
So, incomplete contrition in anyone’s books. In response, on Tuesday, several elected officials and African American community leaders—including Mayor Bloomberg— spoke out against Hikind at a press conference at City Hall, calling his Purim choice and his comments “arrogant,” “degrading,” “shameful” and an attack on the dignity of the African-American people.
Assemblywoman Inez Barron criticized Hikind for his general lack of enthusiasm for erasing the ravages of slavery (mostly because Hikind never hid his strong support for racial profiling).
“Dov Hikind’s latest antic is another reveal of who Dov Hikind really is,” Barron said. “His assertion that he did not know that appearing in blackface is offensive to black people is incredulous… Mr. Hikind, your egregious behavior is shameful, degrading, unacceptable and unworthy of a leadership position.”
I’ll tell you, we could be offended by this incredibly disingenuous exploitation of one man’s temporary loss of political savvy (Hikind is such a clever political animal normally, he’s been running for years as the only Republican elected official who is part of the Democratic caucus in Albany). But, to be fair, if we lose control over every joke at the expense of Jewish Hollywood moguls, we can’t cry foul over a blackface.
Barron’s husband, City Councilman Charles Barron, called on Gov. Cuomo and Speaker Sheldon Silver (another Orthodox Jew, but less Republican) to take away Hikind’s post of Assistant Majority Leader.
“His inability to repent, to generally repent and ‘get it,’ is another problem,” Barron said. “The governor needs to say something, and we need to go beyond condemnation verbally.”
Local community leaders in front of City Hall also said Hikind’s costume was more than just an offense. “The NAACP…fought against ‘blackface’ in the ’20s and ’30s. For an elected public official to feel comfortable not only dressing in blackface but defending his actions is an outrage that says to me that the dignity of African-American people is under attack,” cried Reverend Conrad Tillard, a minister at the Nazarene Congregational Church of Christ in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “As a clergyperson, I am here to say that we will defend our dignity. We will not allow public officials, corporations or anyone else to demean or deprive us of the dignity that we deserve.”
Silver, by the way, has already publicly rebuked Hikind’s Purim choice, as did Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman.
By the way, Mayor Bloomberg was not planning to be in the press conference, he was just passing by on his way into City Hall, when Councilman Barron asked for his opinion on the scandal and Bloomberg answered: “This time, we agree.”
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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