Okay, say it with me now, if you do something in blackface, no matter how funny you think it is, you will need to hire a PR company to fix your stupid mess. Seriously, at this point in history, you would think folks would be beyond certain things. It doesn’t matter how drunk you were when you came up with the idea, or how funny your friends thought it would be or if your One Black Friend signed off on it. Do not think about donning blackface … ever. Got it?
Case in point, this warning came far too late for a German public broadcasting company SWR, which has come under a barrage of international fire after a “comedy” sketch in which one of the TV personalities came out in blackface.
Following the airing of the bit, a civil rights group in Germany, The Initiative of Black People in Germany, came out and explained something that should, especially by now, have been self-evident to the people involved in the stupid stunt. According to IBP, the sketch “reflects a racist tradition in which minorities are depicted with exaggerated features to make audiences laugh…”
The release by the group called for SWR to refuse to broadcast the clip on what, in America, might be called Candid Camera. In an entirely tone deaf and incredibly shortsighted response, SWR refused the request and aired the clip anyway. Their excuse? Presenter Guido Cantz was known to dress up as other “characters” to fool his victims. He’s been a woman, an old man, and others … “this time he slipped into the role of a black African…” the network explained.
Yes, people, everyone realizes what was meant to be conveyed. And that scenario is only funny if it’s portrayed in a way that most folks would find to be racist. Once again, this is not exactly something that should have to be explained. Particularly to a company as media savvy as a TV network.
While there has not yet been too much blowback from the airing of the bit, it’s early yet. Generally, these things can incubate for a time before they hit the internet. When that happens, that’s when the acrimony and major PR troubles begin. Strangers will be calling for these people, especially Cantz, to be fired. At that point, trying to argue “it wasn’t meant to be racist” is too little too late.