Brooklyn Assemblyman Defends Wearing Black Face Paint to Purim Party

Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013  |  Updated 6:30 AM EDT
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State Assemblyman Dov Hikind wore black face paint and an Afro wig to a costume party over the weekend, and said Monday that being offended by it is

NBC 4 New York

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind wore black face paint and an Afro wig to a costume party over the weekend, and said Monday that being offended by it is "political correctness to the absurd." Tracie Strahan reports.

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A state assemblyman from Brooklyn wore black face paint and an Afro wig to a costume party over the weekend, and said Monday that being offended by it is "political correctness to the absurd."
 
The party was for the Jewish holiday Purim, a festive celebration often commemorated by dressing up.
 
Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind wore the costume to a Purim party he hosted at his home over the weekend, as first reported by Politicker.
 
A photo posted on Facebook by Hikind's 32-year-old son, Yoni Hikind, shows the lawmaker with a darkened face, wearing a black wig, sunglasses and what appears to be an orange jersey over a white t-shirt. The assemblyman's wife wore a devil costume.

The caption reads: "How cool are my folks... Lol" 

Dov Hikind told Politicker that he 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,” Hikind said. “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.”  

Hikind tweeted Monday: "It's Purim! People dress up!" He then wrote in a blog post that he was surprised by the attention.

"I am intrigued that anyone who understands Purim -- or for that matter understands me -- would have a problem with this. This is political correctness to the absurd. There is not a prejudiced bone in my body."

Assemblyman Karim Camara, chair of the black, Latino and Asian caucus, said in a statement that the outrage over Hikind's costume on Monday was "widespread," and noted the "deeply painful" history of the blackface minstrel show.

"The stereotypes embodied in blackface minstrels have played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes and perceptions, which are still painful and offensive today," he said. "I find the actions of the assemblyman to be callous and repugnant. At the very least, an apology should be issued to those who found his portrayal objectionable." 

Later Hikind told reporters that he apologizes to "those who were offended."

Camara, Councilman Jumaane D. Williams and a group of other City Council members rejected the apology as insincere, releasing a signed letter late Monday stating, "Not only have you appeared publicly in  blackface, you have offered an initially fierce defense of your actions."

"The relationship between the Jewish and African-American communities of Brooklyn has strengthened in recent years, but not too long ago it was deeply fractured," the letter said. "Leaders from these communities have worked hard to calm tensions and build bridges of tolerance and cooperation. However, to many concerned New Yorkers, your act and subsequent comments fly in the face of those efforts." 

Williams and Camara, along with Council members Lewis Fidler, Sara Gonzalez, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, Darlene Mealy, Diana Reyna and Al Vann, asked Hikind to "provide a sincere apology" and to "make the commitment to working with community leaders to improve cross-cultural understanding." 

Earlier this month, Hikind criticized the fashion designer John Galliano, who was recently photographed in New York City dressing as a Hasid with a long jacket and curly sidelocks. Two years ago, Galliano was fired from Christian Dior after his anti-Semitic rant was caught on video.

Hikind demanded an explanation from Galliano for his costume.

“Who is he mocking?” Hikind said to the New York Post at the time. “The way the socks look, the jacket, the peyos . . . My question is, who’s he laughing at?

In Albany, Hikind has championed some conservative and religion-based issues. In 2009, he opposed an early vote to legalize same-sex marriage.

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