What was he thinking?
That is the prevailing question swirling among New York state assemblyman Dov Hikind’s colleagues after a photo appeared on his son’s Facebook page this weekend showing the veteran politician dressed wearing an afro wig, in black face.
Even today, in 2013 – it still ranks as one of the most insulting, painful mischaracterizations of an entire race.
“They were used to demean African Americans. To say that we weren’t smart enough, or that we weren’t good enough, or that we weren’t human, or clean enough. There caricatures were designed to rob of us our dignity”, said Rev. Conrad Tillard of the Nazarene Congregational Church in Brooklyn.
Hikind is a pillar of Brooklyn’s orthodox Jewish community, and persistent watchdog against anti-Semitism, and intolerance in general.
If you can believe it, he initially defended his so called costume, worn Sunday during a large party at his home for the Jewish holiday “Purim”.
“It was Purim. Purim is when people get dressed up and try to look different,” said Hikind.
It took less than a New York minute for casual observers and elected officials alike – black and white – to universally condemn the man who is often considered one of the Big Apple’s more media-savvy public officials.
Assemblywoman Deborah Glick tweeted, “Assembly member Dov Hikind in blackface was beyond offensive. A Purim party shouldn’t be cover for insensitivity. He is an ass!”
After all, it was Hikind who went on the offensive just a couple of weeks ago, questioning former Christian Dior designer john Galliano’s Hasidic costume.
Hikind was quoted as saying, “Who is he mocking? The way the socks look, the jacket, the peyos…my question is, ‘Who’s he laughing at?’”
By Monday evening, Hikind changed his tune during a hastily arranged news conference in front of his Brooklyn home.
“Anyone who was offended, I’m sorry that they were offended. That was not the intention. And that’s really all i can say”, said Hikind.
But Rev. Tillard of the Nazarene Congregational Church in Brooklyn says he needs more from Hikind – even after his apology.