Black Writer Living In Japan Puts Japanese TV on Blast For Blackface New Year's Eve Sketch
“Blackness is being treated as a tool for comedy, for laughs, and that impacts how I’m perceived and treated on a daily basis here.”
January 04, 2018 at 8:14 pm
Nothing rings in the new year like the perpetuation of offensive racist tropes, right?
Japan's most famous comedy team seemed to think so, choosing to rock blackface on national television during a New Year's Eve special. As part of the popular Downtown comedy troupe, Masatoshi Hamada covered himself in black makeup for an impersonation of Axel Foley, Eddie Murphy's character on the 1984 hit, Beverly Hills Cop.
Brooklyn born writer Baye McNeil, who has lived in Japan for several years, took to Twitter with a word from on high:
Note to japanese performing in #BlackFace: #Blackness is not a punchline nor a prop. Need jokes? Get better writers. Need a black character, get a black actor that speaks Japanese. There are several! But please #StopBlackfaceJapan #日本でブラックフエイス止めて not a good look! pic.twitter.com/lN0E3bWsgY— Baye McNeil (@Locohama) December 31, 2017
McNeil also called for the show's writers to be held accountable:
No, I see a disregard for the feelings and for the impact his actions have on the lives of actual black people. I understand he has a job to do, but if he can't do his job without offensive racial mimicry and blackface, then that's just sad. He needs new writers #blackfaceisbad https://t.co/aPWOapuEdZ— Baye McNeil (@Locohama) January 2, 2018
And McNeil wasn't alone in his criticism:
While others were hesitant to use the word "racism," they still called foul on the performance:
The 24h no laugh program used to be excellent until a few years ago, but it became really bad recently. I know we should be able to laugh about everything but there are things we should be careful. I wouldn’t call it racism but ignorance. #BlackFace #ガキ使 pic.twitter.com/bm4rvEvrHG— Lionel Piguet (@lionelpiguet) December 31, 2017
As always, there were some who felt the whole affair was much ado about nothing, such as this user who cited Eddie Murphy in defending the blackface:
All these people who freaked over #Hamada doing #Blackface on #ガキの使い #ガキの使い大晦日年越しSP絶対に笑ってはいけないアメリカンポリス24時 need to take a step back and remember, Eddie Murphy himself did yellow and whiteface before. Just sayin'... #白左 pic.twitter.com/ptPvnrMm7B— 翻訳なら#hodgster (@matth0dge) January 1, 2018
Some who made light of the performance also argued that it was okay because Japan doesn't have the same racial struggles as the United States. McNeil, however, disagreed in an interview with the Huffington Post Japan.
“Blackness is being treated as a tool for comedy, for laughs, and that impacts how I’m perceived and treated on a daily basis here,” he said. “Do you think these comedians care about that? I doubt it. They should. The quality of my life is affected by them.”