Hollywood reckons with its ‘bottomless pit’ of blackface

Tina Fey and Jimmy Kimmel are very different comedians, but they’ve both recently had to apologize for committing the same comic offense. Last week, the 30 Rock creator and the Jimmy Kimmel Live! star issued public statements within a day of each other in which they acknowledged using blackface at different points in their careers. Kimmel wore blackface in the 1990s and 2000s when he imitated African-American NBA legend Karl Malone on his Comedy Central series, The Man Show. “I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke,” Kimmel said in his statement. “I never considered that this might be seen as anything other than an imitation of a fellow human being, one that had no more to do with Karl’s skin color than it did his bulging muscles and bald head.”

Fey, meanwhile, incorporated blackface into storylines featured on four different episodes of 30 Rock, which enjoyed a seven-season run on NBC from 2006 to 2013. “I understand now that ‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images,” she wrote in her statement, which also requested that the episodes in question be removed from streaming and on-demand services. “I apologize for pain they have caused.”

Mia Moody-Ramirez — chair of Baylor University’s Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media, and co-author of the book From Blackface to Black Twitter: Reflections on Black Humor, Race, Politics, & Gender — listened to … Read the rest