African American comedian Nick Cannon’s use of “whiteface” to promote his new album “White People Party Music” has sparked outrage and whipped up a storm of angry criticism.
Last week the “America’s Got Talent” host introduced his white alter ego Connor Smallnut, complete with white skin, blonde hair, skull cap and plaid shirt, on Instagram.
“It’s official… I’m White!!! #WHITEPEOPLEPARTYMUSIC#Wppm in stores April 1st!!!!!! Dude Go Get It!!! JoinTheParty!!!!” the husband of singer Mariah Carey posted along with a photograph.
He followed that up with Twitter hashtags of characteristics stereotypically associated with whites: “#GoodCredit #DogKissing #BeerPong #FarmersMarkets #FistPumping #CreamCheeseEating #RacialDraft “Bro I got drafted!!”
The Caucasian caricature did more than raise eyebrows in many quarters, with some critics claiming there is a double standard when it comes to racial comedy.
“So Nick Cannon can put on White face and be considered hilarious. I put on Black face and get called racist. Sweet haha #doublestandards,” wrote one Twitter user.
Another critic said on Instagram: “OK, so someone makes a white joke and its funny, but someone makes a black joke and [it’s] like the zombie apocalypse [sic] is about to take over the human race.”
CNN anchor Don Lemon nevertheless mocked the irate reactions in his weekly commentary segment on the “Tom Joyner Show.”
“Yes, it is a double standard, and rightly so,” Lemon said. “Why? Very simply – because of slavery, because of Jim Crow, because of segregation. Because Blackface was created to mock a group of people who had no power and to further stereotype them as animals, as monkeys and as less than human.
“Blackface was used as a way for white people to get jobs by performing as offensive representations of black people. Real black people never got the jobs. They just hired white people in Blackface.”
Cannon/Smallnut nevertheless kept his cool as the debate heated up.
“I knew it would spark some controversy,” he said in an interview on “Good Morning America” on Monday, “but I felt like it’s a conversation that we needed because we all have differences we embrace. I talk about it in my standup all the time. It is not a new conversation, but a topic of sensationalism.
“Everybody’s really sensitive when it comes to race and that’s the reason I did it,” he added.
Cannon, 33, went on to say that he meant the whole thing to be “fun.”
“Yes, we have issues about race in this country and this world but it doesn’t have to be with hatred.”
Host George Stephanopoulos then brought up a Facebook question that someone posted: “Would it be the same if Eminem’s album was ‘Black People Rapper Music’???”
“I bet you if Eminem named his album ‘Black People Rapper Music’ it’d still go platinum,” Cannon responded.
Of the album, his first in more than a decade, Cannon said: “I’m an artist. I get the opportunity to create. Everything’s going to come with consequences and a little heat, but if I can take the heat, let’s ride.”