Blackface Apology: NY Democrat Dov Hikind Explains Purim Costume

Tuesday, 26 Feb 2013 10:13 AM

By Ronald Kessler

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A New York politician who caused controversy by dressing in a blackface costume for a Purim celebration apologized for his actions Monday, but some say his attempt to make amends isn't enough.

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn, donned an afro wig, a bright orange jersey, sunglasses, and wore black face makeup, courtesy of a makeup artist, for the 14-hour Jewish holiday party at his home. A photo was published in The New York Observer and quickly started circulating the Internet, sparking outrage.

Hikin told the New York Times that he didn't intend to offend anyone when he showed up as a "black basketball player." He insisted that perhaps many who were insulted by the costume did not understand the tradition of dressing up for Purim.

"The main objective that I have is not to be recognizable,” Hikind told reporters at a Monday press conference. He said "it never crossed my mind" that anyone would be offended by the costume.

Hikind initially dismissed the reaction as "political correctness to the absurd," but as negative responses grew in volume, he said he felt it necessary to hold a press conference.

"Anyone who was offended, I am sorry that they were offended," Hikind said. "That was not the intention, and that is really all I can say. I just have to reiterate it was Purim. Purim is when people get dressed up."

Assemblyman Karim Camara, a fellow Brooklyn Democrat, told CNN the costume was "callous and repugnant."

"I don't think what he has said so far is sufficient," Camara said. "It is a beginning, but we need to have a dialogue with him," adding that blackface "brings back the memories of African-Americans being reduced to buffoonery just to gain access to the entertainment industry."

Hikind appeared to have a difficult time explaining why he made the choice.

“I was just, I think, I was trying to emulate, you know, maybe some of these basketball players. Someone gave me a uniform, someone gave me the hair of the actual, you know, sort of a black basketball player,” he told The Observer. “It was just a lot of fun. Everybody just had a very, very good time and every year I do something else. The fun for me is when people come in and don’t recognize me.”

Related stories:

Tracy Morgan: Alec Baldwin Needs to Apologize If He Used Racial Slur

Santa Still Welcome, But 'Black Pete' Zwarte Piet Under Fire in Netherlands

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