NY assemblyman apologises for blackface

2013-02-26 09:00
In this August 2012 photo, Assemblyman Dov Hikind speaks to the media outside a courtroom at Brooklyn State Supreme Court in New York. (File, AP)

In this August 2012 photo, Assemblyman Dov Hikind speaks to the media outside a courtroom at Brooklyn State Supreme Court in New York. (File, AP)

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Albany — A New York assemblyman who at first vigorously defended wearing blackface, an Afro wig and a basketball jersey to a costume party apologised on Monday, saying he didn't mean to hurt anyone.

Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind wore the basketball garb at his own party in his home to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim, for which costumes are commonly part of the celebration. For hours on Monday, Hikind was assailed by criticism that he initially dismissed as "political correctness to the absurd".

At a news conference outside his Brooklyn home, however, Hikind pledged to be "a little more careful, a little more sensitive". He added: "I repeat, it was not meant to in any way hurt anyone. And those that were? I'm sorry. That was not my intention."

Assemblyman Karim Camara of the state Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus had called Hikind's actions at the party "callous and repugnant".

"It brings back the memories of African-Americans being reduced to buffoonery just to gain access to the entertainment industry," said Camara, who is also a Brooklyn Democrat and a black leader in the New York state Legislature.

The powerful leader of the Democrat-led Assembly, Speaker Sheldon Silver, weighed in shortly after Hikind's news conference, calling Hikind's actions "inappropriate and offensive". No action against Hikind was announced.

'Are you mocking us?'

Earlier this month, Hikind criticised 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.

"If it was just anyone else, I wouldn't know what to say. But considering who this guy is, considering his background and what he's said in the past, let him explain it to all of us: Are you mocking us?" Hikind told the New York Post.

On 31 January, Hikind asked the president of Brooklyn College to resign for failing to stop an event he said had a racist agenda. He wrote on his blog at the time that the "BDS Movement Against Israel" event called for a unilateral boycott against Israel and Israeli businesses.

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

"It is about what I believe God wants," Hikind said at the time. "God doesn't flip-flop on an issue."

- AP
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