Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind is facing a storm of criticism after he dressed as an African-American basketball player in blackface. Hikind wore the costume to a party at his house celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim.
He posted a picture of himself on Facebook wearing an afro wig and an orange jersey.
The New York Times reports that some fellow Democrats criticized the costume. The Times adds:
"'I am deeply shocked and outraged by the insensitive actions of Assemblyman Hikind, to dress as a black basketball player complete with tanned skin and an Afro wig,' said Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Brooklyn Democrat and the chairman of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. Mr. Camara said that 'the history of the blackface minstrel show is something deeply painful in the African-American community' and that 'the stereotypes embodied in blackface minstrels have played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes and perceptions.'"
But Hikind, whom the Times describes as a powerbroker in the Orthodox Jewish community, thinks nothing of his costume choice.
"I am intrigued that anyone who understands Purim — or for that matter understands me — would have a problem with this," he wrote. "This is political correctness to the absurd. There is not a prejudiced bone in my body."
The New York Observer spoke to Hikind who stuck by the assertion and told the paper he used a makeup artist for the costume. By the time the party was over, it took him "thirty minutes in the shower trying to remove the makeup..."
Update at 5:04 p.m. ET. 'Should Have Picked Something Else':
The New York Daily News reports Hikind changed his tune a bit during a news conference outside his house.
The paper reports:
"'In hindsight, I should have picked something else. It never crossed my mind for a split second that I was doing something wrong. It was as innocent as something can be,' said Hikind ...
"'People in the community were dressed up as Arabs. What was that about?' asked Hikind, an Orthodox Jew who's known for his impassioned critiques of anything he thinks smacks of the slightest anti-Semitism, according to our Reuven Blau, who was on scene for the presser outside the longtime lawmaker's home.
"'My wife was dressed as the devil. And she's not a devil. It was to look different on Purim without deep intentions. I just wanted to look different and unrecognizable,' Hikind said."