Nick Cannon’s use of “Whiteface” to promote his new album titled “White People Party Music” has turned cyberspace into a battle zone.
On March 24, Cannon introduced Connor Smallnut, his White alter ego complete with plaid shirt, skull cap, blond hair and white skin on Instagram.
“It’s official… I’m White!!! #WHITEPEOPLEPARTYMUSIC#Wppm in stores April 1st!!!!!! Dude Go Get It!!! JoinTheParty!!!!” he posted along with a photograph. He followed that up with Twitter hashtags of activities stereotypically associated with Caucasians: “#GoodCredit #DogKissing #BeerPong #FarmersMarkets #FistPumping #CreamCheeseEating #RacialDraft “Bro I got drafted!!”
The character drew criticism from many quarters, with some claiming there is a double standard when it comes to racial comedy.
“OK, so someone makes a White joke and its funny, but someone makes a black joke and [it’s] like the zombie apocalypse [sic] is about to take over the human race,” said one Instagram user.
Another person wrote on Twitter, “So Nick Cannon can put on White face and be considered hilarious. I put on Black face and get called racist. Sweet haha #doublestandards”.
“Cue the backlash and faux outrage,” said CNN anchor Don Lemon in his weekly commentary segment on the “Tom Joyner Show,” mocking the irate responses.
“Yes, it is a double standard, and rightly so,” he added. “Why? Very simply – because of slavery, because of Jim Crow, because of segregation. Because Blackface was created to mock a group of people who had no power and to further stereotype them as animals, as monkeys and as less than human. Blackface was used as a way for White people to get jobs by performing as offensive representations of Black people. Real Black people never got the jobs. They just hired White people in Blackface.”
Political analyst Jason Johnson of Hiram College called any outrage about Cannon’s promotion move “fake,” but he also criticized Cannon’s gimmick as being based on outdated stereotypes.
"Nick Cannon's ‘Whiteface’ stunt was exactly that, a stunt. It's an example of what happens when a comedian attempts to make socially relevant satire but doesn't have the history or the résumé to poignant social commentary,” Johnson told the AFRO. “The idea that club or electronic music is ‘White music’ is fairly dated as well. It's a very 1990s ‘White Men Can't Jump’ kind of joke that really isn't relevant today in a world where rap, rock and electronica audiences and acts are across the racial and cultural spectrum.”