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September 2010

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Outrage over Will.i.am’s VMA Blackface — I’m Confused

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Will.i.am is receiving a lot of heat for his VMA performance, where he appeared in blackface while performing with Nicki Minaj.  Personally, I thought Nicki Minaj’s ridiculous purple outfit was more offensive than Will.i.am’s blackface, but that’s neither here nor there.  Let me begin by explaining that I don’t usually defend Will.i.am, because he’s generally pompous in interviews, but I’ll make an exception this time around.  Blackface is offensive because of it’s history in vaudeville and minstrel, where white men painted their face black, and danced around the stage making fun of black people.  To my knowledge, it did not involve black men painting their face black and dancing around the stage making fun of black people.  Got that?  I realize that it’s a double standard to say that something is insulting when a white person does it, but it isn’t insulting when a black person does it.  But that brings me to the brilliant Chris Rock quote below for your reading pleasure.  After you read it, I believe my point will be pretty clear.

‘I get white guys complaining that I get to use the word “nigger.” Well last time I checked, that was the only advantage I had. You want to trade places?’ he offers to a white man in the audience. ‘You get up here and scream “nigger” and I’ll raise interest rates. Because even if you don’t personally run the world, the people who run the world look pretty much like you.’

Watch Will.i.am and Nicki Minaj’s performance below.