Yesterday we tipped you off to the brewing controversy over Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s Purim costume, in which he dressed as a basketball player, which, of course, means he was in blackface and an afro.
Defiant at first, the ensuing media reaction has forced Hikind to apologize, we think, while more local politicians have joined the chorus condemning Hikind’s insensitive costume and remarks he made defending it.
Hikind’s apology, relayed in the New York Daily News, expressed regret at offending people.
“I’m sorry people were offended,” Hikind said at a news conference outside his home. “In hindsight, I should have picked something else. It never crossed my mind for a split second that I was doing something wrong.”
Hours later, Hikind went on radio WSNR and repeated his apology to host Zev Brenner, but added a remark about gay people that did little to help his cause.
“If I was doing it all over again? I would look at, you know, additional alternatives, because my real objective is — it’s not about being a black person or Indian, or maybe I would be a gay person…by the way, would that be okay, Zev? If I played a gay person next year?”
Reaction by fellow New York politicians has been strong and swift.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz issued a press release calling Hikind’s costume “tasteless,” reflecting an “unintentional lack of judgement.”
Councilmember Jumaane D. Williams sent a searing letter to Hikind, explaining for him why his costume choice is objectionable to African-Americans.
Your costume is offensive to a significant segment of this borough for its connection to the sordid history of blackface in American theater. People associate blackface with offensive African-American stereotypes popularized in minstrel shows and vaudeville, stereotypes such as laziness, stupidity and cowardice. In fact, this same art form negatively depicted other communities, including the bigoted portrayal of Jews as corrupt and conniving.
The Daily News also reported Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, also an Orthodox Jew, of decrying the outfit as “inappropriate and offensive.”