03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Deep Wounds of Black-Facism

Spurred by a recent debacle on Australian television program "Hey Hey It's Saturday," black-face people worldwide are stepping forward and demanding they be treated with the respect and equality they deserve.

On that program, the host was forced to apologize to guest judge Harry Connick Junior for the inclusion of a variety act, performed in black face, under the name "The Jackson Jive."

While the performers meekly accepted their tongue-lashing at the time, black-faces who have heard about the incident since are in an uproar.

"How dare Harry Connick Jr. ask us to apologize for performing medleys of actual-black-peoples' music in our own, totally uproarious way?" opined Mary James, a black-face resident of Highlands, North Carolina. "It's as though he thinks we're somehow responsible for the color of the paints we've smeared on our skin. It's ignorant, is what it is," she finished.

Ms. James' sentiment seems to be widespread. Jeremy Steele, A black-face man from Palo Alto, California, was equally offended: "what Harry Connick Junior doesn't understand is that black-face isn't just a show we put on for his benefit, it's an entire culture, with very deep roots, and even deeper jars of shoe-polish," Mr. James said. "That narrow worldview, seeing black-face as just a painted-on color, really damages our ability to creatively appropriate, stereotype, and finally repackage black culture in a way that we find super-hilarious."

"Actions like Mr. Connick Junior's damage black-face families, they damage the black-face man or woman's sense of him or herself as a full member of society, they even damage a black-face person's ability to look at him or herself in the mirror and feel good about what he or she sees there," said Jeanne Puntner, president of the Chicago-area chapter of the National Association for Black-Face Understanding.

"He probably can't even comprehend how it feels not to be able to face yourself in the mirror, or how hard that makes it to apply shoe polish around our lips at a distance that makes it appear like we have a comically large mouth," Ms. Puntner added.

"You think you've come a long way, but then something like this happens, and it just feels like such a setback. It makes me wonder if we'll ever be able to live in a society where whites, blacks, and black-faces can live together without all their interactions being loaded with the pervasive black-facism that still exists in our culture." Mr. Steele noted, sighing. "Just scratch the surface and you'll find it. That, and our real skin tones."

Subscribe to the Entertainment email.
Home to your favorite fan theories and the best movie recs.