Assemblyman Dov Hikind apologized this afternoon for donning blackface at his blowout Purim party, after spending all morning defending his outrageous getup.
The joyous Jewish celebration of Purim can often involve Halloween-type costumes and Hikind didn’t spare any detail in his curious retro look.
He wore brown face paint, sunglasses, an Afro wig and an orange jersey, in his bid to look like a 70s hoops star.
“To anyone who was offended, I’m sorry,” Hikind said. “That was not the intention.”
The powerful Brooklyn Democrat added: “If I had to do It all over again, I would certainly found something, another costume to wear.”
The former city comptroller, who is black, has deep Brooklyn roots and strong ties to Orthodox voters, who he’s actively courting.
Thompson walked a tightrope today, calling for Hikind to apologize while also praising the assemblyman’s past work.
“For years, Assemblyman Dov Hikind has played a crucial role in bringing together leaders from the African American, Jewish, and other communities to stand against racism and anti-Semitism,” Thompson said.
“Consistent with his record of service and commitment to our diverse city, I believe this incident calls for Assemblyman Hikind to issue an apology. I have stood with Dov on numerous occasions to take on the challenges that face our city. I look forward to doing so again.”
Public Advocate Bill De Blasio, a Park Slope resident who is also courting Brooklyn Orthodox voters, hedged his criticism of Hikind as well.
“In all the time I’ve known Dov, I’ve never found him to be prejudiced against anyone, but clearly he did something very insensitive here,” De Blasio said. “He should apologize.”
Earlier today, a defiant Hikind said his costume wasn’t wrong, insisting he doesn’t have a “prejudiced bone” in his body.
“Yes, I wore a costume on Purim and hosted a party. Most of the people who attended also wore costumes,” Hikind wrote on his blog today.
“Everywhere that Purim was being celebrated, people wore costumes. It was Purim. People dress up.”
Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the state Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said Hikind doesn’t grasp the historical implications of blackface.
“I am deeply shocked and outraged by the insensitive actions of Assemblyman Hikind,” Camara said.
“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.”
Before apologizing, Hikind accused critics of taking racial sensitivity to outrageous lengths.
“This is political correctness to the absurd. There is not a prejudiced bone in my body.”
Hikind played the PC card for his own benefit, less than two weeks after calling out oddball fashion designer John Galliano and his Hasid-like attire.
“Who is he mocking?” Hikind fumed at Galliano earlier this month. “If it was just anyone else, I wouldn’t know what to say. But considering who this guy is, considering his background and what he’s said in the past, let him explain it to all of us: Are you mocking us?”
Hikind, 62, earlier told the political news Web site Politicker that his Purim costume was meant in good fun.
“I was just, I think, I was trying to emulate, you know, maybe some of these basketball players. Someone gave me a uniform, someone gave me the hair of the actual, you know, sort of a black basketball player,” Hikind said.
“It was just a lot of fun. Everybody just had a very, very good time and every year I do something else. … The fun for me is when people come in and don’t recognize me.”
Often considered a liaison for Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, Hikind said earlier today that he can’t fathom how blackface – or at least his version of it – could be considered insensitive or in poor taste.
“I can’t imagine anyone getting offended,” said Hikind. “You know, anyone who knows anything about Purim knows that if you walk throughout the community, whether it’s Williamsburg, Boro Park, Flatbush, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, people get dressed up in, you name it, you know, in every kind of dress-up imaginable.”
Purim is among the community’s most festive celebrations, as revelers raise a class to Queen Esther who saved Jews from extermination in ancient Persia.
The Jewish celebration is open to outrageous costumes, Hikind said, as long as no one is “mocking.”
“Purim, you know, everything goes and it’s all done with respect. No one is laughing, no one is mocking. No one walked in today and said, ‘Oh my God,’ “ he said earlier.
“It’s all just in good fun with respect always, whatever anyone does it’s done with tremendous amounts of respect and with dignity, of course.”
The Assemblyman’s wife was dressed as a devil and his son was a trippy, yin-yang-faced “angel.”