After the 2009 MuchMusic Video Music Awards, a member of [lastfm]will.i.am[/lastfm]‘s entourage may or may not have punched gossipmonger Perez Hilton (charges are still pending). Comparatively, his outfit during his MTV VMA performance might not be as controversial. But some online are saying that [lastfm]will.i.am[/lastfm] dredged up years of racial acrimony by performing with [lastfm]Nicki Minaj[/lastfm] in blackface.
Popular across the country in the early part of the 20th century, “blackface” was the term used to describe white performers who would perform as African-Americans, often with their faces painted black and other features exaggerated, such as bigger lips and messy hairstyles. It was and still is seen as wildly offensive and has become fairly taboo since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
Last night, [lastfm]will.i.am[/lastfm] broke out the black paint for his pre-show performance with [lastfm]Nicki Minaj[/lastfm]:
Online, critics immediately jumped on [lastfm]will.i.am[/lastfm] for playing into old stereotypes. The [lastfm]Black Eyed Peas[/lastfm] star, though, wasn’t having it, replying via Twitter: “1st. just because I where all black including head mask as expression and emphasize my outfit, it shouldn’t be looked at as racial…”
[lastfm]will.i.am[/lastfm] also added, “Are you guys serious? my outfit set ‘black people back 100 yrs’ choose your twits wisely. no education sets people back, no jobs, bad health.”
It should be noted, in [lastfm]will.i.am[/lastfm]‘s defense, that blackface usually involves more than just skin color. It’s about exaggerated features (the lips were a favorite of blackface performers) and stereotypical behavior. Neither of those were in evidence during [lastfm]will.i.am[/lastfm]‘s performance.
What do you think? Was [lastfm]will.i.am[/lastfm] wrong for the outfit? Or are some people being a little to sensitive?