Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Harry Connick Jr.

I fell in love with Harry Connick Jr.'s voice when I was nine years old. That was the year that I watched the movie "Memphis Belle" and heard him sing "Danny Boy." I immediately told my mother that I had to have a copy of his music. I bought a tape and played it over and over and over again. Since then I've been hooked.

Not only is Harry Connick Jr. an esteemed actor and swell musician, but he grew up very close to wear I grew up. He's from New Orleans. He also seems to feel the same way about racism, which is that it's wrong.

Last week, the news media picked up on a story about him being a judge on a Australian variety show. During the variety show, one of the acts did a tribute to Michael Jackson and his family in blackface. Appalled, Connick gave the contestants a zero and explained that in the United States black face is not acceptable. Immediately the media jumped on him, they even pulled up old footage of him playing a preacher on Madtv.

Here's what Connick had to say about the Madtv skit: There is a 1996 MadTV clip of a spoof featuring a black Baptist minister named Rev. LaMonte Nixon Fatback and a white southern evangelical preacher with a pompadour named Dr. Michael Kassick. Some people seem to be confused about which actor is playing which character. For the record, the actor playing Rev. LaMonte Nixon Fatback is Orlando Jones and the actor playing Dr. Michael Kassick is Harry Connick Jr.

My thought about the whole ordeal is why do we jump all over Connick for his beliefs? I think its funny that we want to paint him first as a racist instead of applaud him for his feelings about blackface.

Blackface started in the 1830s theatre. White people and black people did paint their faces black. But the idea was to bring out stereotypes of black people: that they were slow and stupid. It later transitioned into radio and television and became popular in Great Britain.

I applaud Connick for explaining that blackface is unacceptable. It's original intention degrading comedy towards black people. Even though the Australians didn't intend to degrade Jackson and his family, they were harking back to an era of blatant racism.

So why does Connick need to defend his actions? Why is it acceptable that the Australians wore blackface? They could have easily performed a skit of the Jackson five without blackface or vulgar humor. I'm sure Connick and myself would see it for its original intention which was to be a tribute not a degradation of the Jackson five.

As a comedic skit Avenue Q sings "We're all a little racist," but that doesn't mean we should condone racists acts.

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