Nick Cannon has definitely taken the promotion for his new album, White People Party Music to a whole different level and seems to be winning and losing all at the same time.
The other day, Cannon posted several pictures and videos in promotion for his new album while dressed in “white face” with a character he calls, Walter Smallnut. He doesn’t end his whole skit at appearance, though. He has used his Instagram and Twitter to push it even further and has referenced, “cream cheese”, “kissing dogs”, and even claims he’s “no longer afraid of the police” with this new identity.
When Cannon posted the pictures, the internet blew up with mixed responses calling him a “racist” and “hypocritical” as others seemed to defend it, finding it to be not that big of a deal.
Check out some mixed responses below:
I propose this. We sacrifice Nick Cannon to white people & in exchange for his execution we dead white/blackface forever.
— Ol’ QWERTY Bastard (@TheDiLLon1) March 25, 2014
Tired of Nick Cannon & all these black teens doing whiteface, ignoring the painful racial history behind it. — Desus (@desusnice) March 25, 2014
But the whole “stunt” and overall response poses a bigger question: Is there a double standard?
Despite the backlash, Cannon defended this entire act. In one response, Cannon himself posted a picture on his Instagram of Robert Downey Jr. in the film Tropic Thunder referencing the actor’s portrayal as an Australian actor playing a black man. He commended Downey’s then-controversial portrayal and wrote alongside the picture
“There is a big difference between Humor and Hatred.”
So is he saying because there’s a “deeper” comic reasoning behind it, he can get away with it?
It makes you think of other times celebs have gotten in trouble for similar cases. Recently there was the Austrian comedian, Chris Stephan, who dressed up as Kanye West (but really just looked like Flavor Flav) when he showed up at the Vienna Ball. Then just last Halloween, actress Julianna Hough dressed up in black-face as the character Crazy Eyes from Orange Is The New Black. Both of these public figures were slammed for their stunts – for being racist and insensitive, but they too only claimed to have done it in a lighthearted way.
Then you have Dave Chappelle who’s portrayed white people numerous times on his show, most famously, a white news anchor, Chuck Taylor. While a lot of Chappelle’s skits came with controversy, people collectively found his white face portrayal more funny than offensive in comparison to Cannon. I believe this is because Chappelle is not only known for pushing boundaries, but he’s generally accepted for it.
So is there really a double-standard when it comes to “white face” and “black face” or is it one of those things where it depends on who isdoing it? I find that white face isn’t couched in the same history as black face so it doesn’t carry the same weight or meaning as someone wearing black face, so there can’t exactly be a double-standard. But it all really comes down to the intention behind it.
The best way to describe Nick Cannon and his persona, I believe, is “corny” and in his defense, Cannon has always been known to embrace his corniness in a unapologetic way. Some can view this stunt as Cannon just being his usual corny self, but between his gigs as the host for the America’s Got Talent and chairman of Teen Nick, you really have to question what the dude was thinking with this one.
While this whole controversy certainly isn’t the worst thing in the world, it is definitely lame. Not necessarily for being mildly offensive, but because the whole thing makes you squirm more than actually laugh. And maybe, Cannon is the only one laughing because he just courted one of the biggest publicity stunts this year and it only cost him a good make-up team and possibly some pride. He’ll probably be laughing all the way to the bank.
PHOTO CREDIT: Instagram