Friday night, at the Slipper Room, where the local NYC crowd goes for their regular dose of burlesque, a performer got on stage and performed a number in black face. Sigh.
According to sources who were in attendance, Rush Aaron Hicks performed in blackface with no warning and no announcement. The other performers weren't aware it was going to happen, nor was the audience. Our tipster (who wished to remain anonymous) writes,
Friday night show at the Slipper Room — was a mixture of burlesque and variety acts. There was striptease, a juggling/hula hooping act, and a magician. [...] [Hicks has] never performed in blackface before to my knowledge. He has a condition that makes his skin flexible and his bones loose in their sockets, so he performs physical feats that creep people out. He was called upon last minute by the producer and so showed up to the venue with no costume, which is why he apparently made the last minute decision to go on in blackface.
But it was Hicks' attempted public defense of his actions (ART!!! QUIT BEING SO SENSITIVE!) that really pushed this stunt from terrible, horrible, no good, very bad into genuinely fucking awful territory.
Time and time again we have discussed how inappropriate, harmful, and straight up stupid black face is, but idiocy can be unrelenting. After the expected and rightful backlash, the performer, a clown (no really a clown) took to his Facebook to set the record straight. Not to apologize or anything, but rather to clear his character of the suggestions of racism by talking about sleeping with a couple black women and working with at-risk youth. I'm not even kidding.
I cannot understand how the idea that moral characteristics are a thing that can be canceled out by certain deeds. It's not like you can pick up some litter from the ground and put it in the trash and SHAZAM you're not racist anymore! Bigotry is not subject to immunity. Volunteering doesn't clear a person from other shitty behavior, and sleeping with black women doesn't give you any right to do black face. The. fucking. end. Or is it? Hicks goes on.
First of all, I'm not sure what he just typed was English. Second, why are we comparing different forms of bigotry and how well they lend themselves to humor? Both are just as relevant as ever, sometimes they even interact, and all of the time, they suck. Sigh.
SHOCKINGLY, not everyone was into Hicks' act.
Listen: Friends don't let friends do black face/be the type of person to do black face and then talk about all the reasons why they're not actually racist.
Image via Rush Hicks' YouTube.
UPDATE: We reached out to the Slipper Room and spoke with Artistic Director James Habacker, who said that Hicks' performance this past weekend was a last minute booking, and his future bookings have since been canceled due to the incident. He confirmed that Hicks' decision to go onstage in blackface was last minute. Habacker stated:
The Slipper Room does not have a policy of telling artists what they can and can't do in their act. I believe that it was a poor choice for him to do black face, and his unfortunate comments after the fact I think have only served to make things worse for him.
We've always been a places that's welcomed diversity. Over the years we've had people on our stage of every ethnicity, sexual orientation, body type, proclivity, we've always been very open. An artist will sometimes make choices you may not understand, they may do things you find shocking, do things you may find offensive, and that's part of what art is, but then if you're going to talk about the art and rationalize it in the way that he has, I can't stand behind that.