Politicker.com reported the 62-year-old Democrat, who represents the New York City borough of Brooklyn, said he had a professional makeup artist apply brown face paint to go with his Afro wig, sunglasses and orange jersey and brown face paint. The costume was for a party at his home Sunday marking the Jewish holiday of Purim.
"I was just, I think, I was trying to emulate, you know, maybe some of these basketball players," Hikind told the webblog Politicker.com. "Someone gave me a uniform, someone gave me the hair of the actual, you know, sort of a black basketball player. It was just a lot of fun.
"I can't imagine anyone getting offended. You know, anyone who knows anything about Purim knows that if you walk throughout the community ... people get dressed up in, you name it, you know, in every kind of dress-up imaginable.
"Purim, you know, everything goes and it's all done with respect. No one is laughing, no one is mocking. No one walked in today and said, 'Oh my God.' ... It's all just in good fun with respect always, whatever anyone does it's done with tremendous amounts of respect and with dignity, of course."
Word of his costume didn't sit well with some, however. Assemblyman Karim Camara, another Brooklyn Democrat who is chairman of the state Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said Hikind just doesn't get it.
"I am deeply shocked and outraged by the insensitive actions of Assemblyman Hikind," Camara said.
"The history of the blackface minstrel show is something deeply painful in the African-American community. It brings back the memories of African-Americans being reduced to 'buffoonery' just to gain access to the entertainment industry. The stereotypes embodied in blackface minstrels have played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images."
Hikind called such criticism "political correctness to the absurd."
"There is not a prejudiced bone in my body," he said.
The Post noted that just days earlier Hikind had blasted fashion designer John Galliano for his Hasid-like attire.
"Who is he mocking?" Hikind said at the time.
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