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Jan 07 2019

Mummers Parade Is Racist, Blackface or No Blackface

Blackface was once an innocuous part of American culture. Al Jolson was famous for wearing it; at one time he was the most famous and highest paid entertainer in the country. He didn’t wear it out of malice. Yet now blackface is regarded as the ultimate blasphemy against political correctness. Megan Kelly saw her career destroyed when she observed that blackface was not always considered disrespectful. On New Year’s Day, someone wore blackface in Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade, resulting in a firestorm. Wait a minute, he wasn’t in blackface — the guy really is black. Never mind; it’s still racist:

When a Black man depicting singer Jay-Z led a crawling white man representing Mayor Jim Kenney on a leash during the Mummers parade, Mikhel Harrison saw racism.

“He was definitely tokenized and objectified walking in a predominantly white parade,” Harrison said referring to the Black man who played Jay-Z.

In contrast, the white person being dragged around on a leash was not tokenized or objectified.

The parade performance put on by the Finnegan New Year’s Brigade, which was pre-approved by the city, initially sparked outrage when people — including City Council President Darrell Clarke — mistakenly accused the man representing Jay-Z of wearing blackface.

Social justice warriors remained furious even after it was confirmed that no blackface was involved. As Rahm Emanuel might put it, you never let a serious tantrum go to waste.

Harrison, a 24-year-old Black man who identifies as queer, condemned the skit as racist and humiliating to people of color.

As for the purpose of the skit,

George J. Badey III, a spokesman for the Mummers, said in an email that the Mummers have a long history of poking fun at politicians and celebrities. …

Badey said the skit referenced a political cartoon that parodied a July incident when Kenney called for moving Jay-Z’s annual two-day Made in America music festival from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art starting in 2019. But after Jay-Z published an op-ed online and held meetings with the administration, Kenney reversed course.

Including blacks in political satire is not inclusive. Clearly action must be taken.

Shani Akilah of the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative demands an end to the Mummers Parade, a tradition that has been going on for over a century and is believed to be the oldest folk festival in the USA. So long as America still has traditions, a social justice warrior’s work is never done.

On a tip from Lyle.

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