NY Assemblyman walks back defense of blackface, apology called 'feeble'

Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI.com  |  Updated Feb. 26, 2013 at 10:49 AM
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Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind apologized Monday for dressing in blackface at a weekend Purim celebration, softening what had been a defiant response to criticism. He took to his blog to call the reaction "political correctness to the absurd."

"It was not meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone in any fashion," said Mr. Hikind. He had hired a makeup artist to darken his face and wore an Afro-style wig as part of a basketball player costume. The Jewish holiday of Purim includes a masquerade tradition similar to Halloween.

"Anyone that was offended, I am sorry that they were offended," said Mr. Hikind, adding that not a single attendee at the party expressed concern over the costume. Mr. Hikind also reminded those at the conference that he had dedicated his life to opposing anti-Semitism and racism.

"I understand the sensitivity of individuals with regard to this particular outfit that I wore. The intentions were as pure as anything that you have ever done that was pure."

After Hikind's son posted a photo of the costume to Facebook, the use of blackface was quickly condemned by other politicians in addition to the public, some of whom consider "sorry they were offended" a non-apology.

"Don't accept this feeble apology," said City Council Member Charles Barron, an African American who called the costume racist. "It's absurd."

Assemblyman Karim Camara, who is also black, called the apology "a good beginning." He was so surprised at the costume choice he had to zoom in on the image before he could believe it was real. "The key thing is not just public words but to make sure he wants to understand why people were offended," Mr. Camara added.

Mr. Hikind had initially resisted apologizing in the wake of the news. "I am intrigued that anyone who understands Purim — or for that matter understands me — would have a problem with this," he wrote.

"I think it's sad. It's inappropriate. It's offensive," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "Of all things to come up with — blackface?" he continued. "It's just—," Mr. Foxman trailed off. "I don't know how to explain it," Mr. Foxman said. "It's such a lapse of judgment."

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