When we saw the photo of Assemblyman Dov Hikind in blackface this morning we had a feeling he was going to take some heat for his Purim costume choice. When we spoke to Hikind shortly after 9 a.m., he still sounded surprised that anyone would take offense at the costume, offering only, "If there's someone out there who has a problem, I'm sorry if they do. They really should not." But after a day of mounting criticism, Hikind has been forced to admit that his costume was, in fact, ill-advised.
"In hindsight, I should have picked something else," Hikind tells the Daily News. "It never crossed my mind for a split second that I was doing something wrong. It was as innocent as something can be... People in the community were dressed up as Arabs. What was that about? 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."
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is also an Orthodox Jew, called Hikind's "actions inappropriate and offensive." Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the state Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said, "I am deeply shocked and outraged by the insensitive actions of Assemblyman Hikind. The history of the blackface minstrel show is something deeply painful in the African American community. It brings back the memories of African Americans being reduced to 'buffoonery' just to gain access to the entertainment industry. The stereotypes embodied in blackface minstrels have played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images."
And Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, issued a statement saying, "Assemblyman Dov Hikind showed terrible judgment in attending a Purim party in blackface. If blacks got dressed up as Hasidim, it would be seen as equally inappropriate."
The end result is that Hikind says he sees the error of his ways and is sorry. He now says, "I understand people's sensitivities. Nobody meant anything. It was not meant to offend you or hurt you in any fashion. I'm sorry people were offended."