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Japanese Comedy Show Featuring Actor In Blackface Spark Outrage

Japanese Actor Blackface

Some argued that actor Masatoshi Hamada meant no “discriminative” harm when he wore Blackface to portray Eddie Murphy. (Image courtesy of Twitter)


A Japanese TV show is under fire after a skit featuring one of the country’s most famous comedians sporting blackface aired on New Year’s Eve. For many, the sketch was grossly racist and offensive — but there were still those who just didn’t get what all the fuss was about.

Outrage quickly unfolded after actor/comedian Masatoshi Hamada appeared on the show with his face painted black in an attempt to impersonate Eddie Murphy in the 1984 movie “Beverly Hills Cop.” Critics were swift to point to the history of racial bigotry and its ties to blackface, but the discussion sparked a debate on Twitter about whether Japanese people are even aware of the fact that blackface is widely viewed as racist.

Even if Japanese folks were ignorant of this, those offended made it a point to educate them on why using blackness and Black culture as a “punchline” for laughs is offensive.

“Need a Black character? Get a Black actor that speaks Japanese,” Black columnist Baye McNeil, who’s lived in Japan for 13 years, tweeted. “There are several.”

In an interview with HuffPost Japan, McNeil further explained why the sketch made him so angry and highlighted how many in the Japanese culture were unaware of minstrelsy and other Black tropes often performed by white actors after the 1800’s to degrade and ridicule African-Americans.

“Japanese society seems to have not properly seen what the world is debating about blackface,” the Brooklyn-born writer told the news site. “Whenever I see a blackface in Japanese television comedies and music, half of me feels like it’s being looked down on, looked like a fool, and only being seen on the surface. [My] humanity is being denied.”

“But the other half says, “They are children, they just do not know,’ ” he added. “So I also have to put up with it, I think.”

Many on social media shared McNeil’s frustration.

Amid the outrage, there were those who pushed back against the accusations of racism by arguing that there’s just a “different culture” in Japan that’s accepting of blackface. Others maintained that the skit that couldn’t have been racist because the actor clearly had a love and high regard for Eddie Murphy.

… then there those who reignited the old blackface v. whiteface debate.

Calls to protest the show have grown in recent days, according to the BBC. There’s no word on if the Hamada plans to issue an apology or response to the outrage.

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