Blackhawks Confidential

Kane, Burish had no intent to defame in their Halloween blackfaces

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Patrick Kane has become a lightning rod with amazing positive and negative electrical charges.

When I first saw pictures posted on the internet Monday of Kane and the irrepressible Adam Burish at a Blackhawks' Halloween party dressed admiringly as old heroes Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, replete with black-face, I figured trouble would be ahead.

Kane can skate around defenders with his speed. But he has yet to learn how to repel trouble when he looks it in the eye.

It didn't take long until the RedEye's Ernest Wilkins, an African-American who works there as a social media intern, posted on Chicago Now. He focused on Kane, of course, rather than Burish because only one of those guys is a star.

"It's interesting being a Black (feel free to sub in Latino/Woman/actual Penguin at your will) hockey fan sometimes," Wilkins wrote. "We don't see a lot of players that look like us, and we want more people out there to look up to on the ice. Stuff like this doesn't help."

No matter that Kane was simply acting out by his costume that he looked up to Pippen as a boy. No matter that neither Burish nor Kane intended any malice. They will be seen as poster boys for bad behavior depending on your point of view, and these are varied when it comes to race.

Everything would have been fine except for Kane and Burish coloring their skin. The history of blackface in entertainment is demeaning. You can google plenty of history on the subject and learn more, which is something I wouldn't be surprised never crossed the minds of two pro athletes just trying for fun by dressing in a sports motif for Halloween.

So do we condemn them simply for the blackface? I don't. But I'm not African-American and I haven't seen that practice through an African-American's eyes. So I don't presume to judge what they see.

I have to admit that one of my favorite Bob Hope movies is "Ghostbreakers." The hilarious Willie Best is Hope's black comic foil in the film, and just like in some other Hope films, African Americans are unjustly portrayed by the insensitivies of that era.

But did I laugh at Best's antics and dialogues? I did. And I don't believe I was demeaning the African-American race as a result. Best was good. His material was thin.

Wilkin's argument is that Kane should offer a more wholesome image to his young fans. By wearing blackface for a party, does Kane just automatically become a racist and support offensive stereotypes?

I don't believe he does in any way, shape or form. They were trying to be in character and going the extra mile in their hero worship of two famous Bulls, and as long as there was no intent to diminish an entire race, Kane and Burish deserve no condemnation in my eyes.

But those are eyes that have looked at life from an Irish, French and English heritage. My maternal grandmother came from France and I've still called into question goalie Cristobal Huet's ability to play at a championship level.

I also took what some saw as a hard-line stance when Kane ran into trouble in Buffalo last summer in the infamous cabbie incident that has never been explained. Kane claimed he had a story to tell, but ultimately pleaded out on the case and wrote an apology to the cabbie. I felt he needed a wakeup call, like many of us--me most of all--have.

To me, no apology needed here. I guess that will make me a racist to some observers. But if President Obama has made a change for the good, it's been in trying to get both races to see out of each other's eyes.

Obama took on the subject of race and won partially. No one is ever to get to the summit of that mountain and declare victory. But at least we are involved in running the race again.

Maybe you read about musician Harry Connick Jr. as a judge on Australia's Hey Hey It's Saturday. Connick spoke out against five white men wearing blackface in trying to portray the Jackson Five. He scored them a zero and said such an act would have been pulled off air in the U. S.

Here's how a website called The Color Line reacted to the group's claim it was a joke.

"The reason why they don't understand why it was offensive is because as Whites in a White majority society, they have the position of being able to make fun of non-Whites while claiming they did not intend it to be offensive," C. N. wrote. "That, my friends, is the quintessential definition of White privilege."

Any time you don blackface, you venture far beyond the blue line, which should be the only color that matters to Kane and Burish and others in the hockey world.

But if their clear intent was to celebrate two black heroes in Chicago folklore, they both deserve no more than a cultural awakening in the world we live. Ask Derrick Rose.

Racism is still alive and well. But blackface isn't the problem. Gang signs aren't the problem in itself. It is what's meant by how we all act toward each other.

I had an African-American friend thank me last year for voting for Obama. I felt odd when he said it. I didn't vote for the African-Americans as a race. I voted for the better president.

I understand why he went all Oprah on me. But it was uncomfortable.

We are all tangled up in our preconceptions, misapprehensions and myths. All I know is Kane and Burish were trying to have fun, not make a statement, and for that they shouldn't be castigated.

We need to know the difference between revelers and those who are reviling. Or else we are all doomed to living forever in the eras of blackface.

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18 Comments

Dave Morris said:

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Wonder why Wilkins didn't mention Kris Versteeg going to the party as Jay-Z?

Sorry, just kidding.

SkaterRich said:

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Sick, Wilkins needs to do some investigating as to what real black face is. I guess it's ok that Eddie Murphy and Dave Sheppel did the same thing but in white face on thier highly watched TV shows?

This reverse racism is killing me.

jj122906 said:

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"Reverse racism" is a moot term - it doesn't make sense! Perhaps you should investigate the historical implications of "blackface". Also, it is Chapelle.

Mike d said:

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anyway to claim racism. racism is the new red. big deal. its a halloween costume. just like skaterrich said its okay for blacks to to don white face. i cant take it anymore.

Mike Kiley said:

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It's a thin red line. Blood has run over the issue, so no one can downgrade the importance to a whole bunch of folks. But this seems like classic knee-jerk reaction to me over what was not ever intended to be a cultural statement by Kane and Burish. But sometimes actions have consequences that were never forseen. Maybe we can get all together for a beer summit at the UC.

jj122906 said:

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Mr. Kiley, perhaps you have access to the true intent of Burrish and Kane, but the general public does not. As you stated, their actions were offensive to many people. I believe both individuals should have thought about whether or not they were offending anyone before they chose their "costumes". I think Burrish should have stuck to the "Dumb & Dumber" outfit he wore with Toews the night before. Also, I thought it was irrelevant to state that Mr. Wilkins is a "social media intern".

Neal said:

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First of all there is no history of whiteface. No history of blacks putting on white makeup to mock and belittle a minority its no where near the same thing. This coming from a south side Irish white guy. So you can knock off the Wayans brothers whitechicks defense right now Rich. Second of all if you would of read Ernest's blog you would of noticed he never calls Kane or Burish Racist and he goes after Kane in particular because hes a super star, a #1 overall draft pick, a franchise player, and a role model. Burish is not. Nothing against him but hes not Kane. And Third it doesn't matter if the didn't mean to offend they did. The simple act of putting that make up on is offensive no matter what day it is and no matter what the intent is. If they wanted to go as bulls put on a jersey put on the red shorts and Kane get a flattop haircut and Burish dye your hair pink we would of got the costume. Blackface is unacceptable and I think to many people have forgotten it.

ErnestWilkins said:

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Mike: First off, thank you for touching on this. I think there's been some misunderstanding though based on the comments I've been getting/seeing. I don't think either Kaner or Burish were being racist. I don't think they had the intention of being offensive. I really don't. The only point I'm making is that no matter what people say, athletes are held to a higher standing in the community. If we as a society say, "That's not appropriate", then what's a kid to do when he sees his hero doing it? That's the only point I'm trying to make. We could substitute this incident for ANYTHING else(Todd Bertuzzi,the Pacers/Pistons fight, etc.) and I would feel the same way.

Oh, and I'm down for the beer summit!

Mike Kiley said:

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If blackface isn't racist, what is it? An annoyance, a faux pax, a fashion misstatement. I believe, Ernest, by implication when you say Kane and Burish aren't portraying the proper image for young people to look up to, you are harkening to the racial divide. If it's not racism, what's the argument? Just boys behaving badly by pissing on stereotypes. I respect your right to voice an opinion. But you can't pull your punches, or what's the point? I agree, though, you should sponsor a beer summit. Be happy to show up and have Chicago Now foot the bill. in fact I might take a limo if Chicago Now is buying, as they should.

Neal said:

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Mike, blackface by definition is racist and they were being racist by having it on. Now I agree with what most people are saying which is Kane and Burish did not put it on with the intention of mocking or insulting blacks. But having it on at all is just a sign of blind stupidity.

Kate21B42 said:

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Mike- Great article!!! I agree with you 110% "If its not racism, what's the argument" Why write the article at all if its not about calling out Burish and Kane???
Can't wait to see next years costumes boys! Best of luck this season =)

iplagitr said:

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Neal, blackface by definition on Halloween is: costume.

My goodness what's this world coming to when you can't wear a goofy costume on Halloween without being called a wrong-doer?! This has nothing to do with racism. Have you been to a costume store lately? Everything in there could be "offensive" to someone. They're costumes! It's not real. It's a silly holiday. Wearing a KKK outfit on Halloween would be stupid and racist. Wearing a Bulls costume (especially Rodman) is just having fun.

Neal said:

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I don't think its a Halloween costume personally. I think its offensive and it angers me that its ok with so many people to do. Does it matter I dont like it? No, but I still have a right to say when I think somethings ok or not.

I don't like it no matter what the intent is even if your paying homage. I personally think its a slippery slope I didn't like Tropic Thunder for doing it with Robert Downey Jr despite it was so ridiculous it was obviously meant to be a joke, I didn't like it on that Australian TV show which was supposed to be a tribute but came off as one of the most racist things I've ever seen, I didn't like that it happened in a french Vogue magazine that was dedicated to supermodels when they chose to shoot a white model in black makeup rather than shoot a black supermodel.

It comes down to that I personally just dont think its ever ok to put on blackface. I'm sorry its just how I feel about the issue. I keep coming back to if you want to go as Rodman for Halloween why not wear a Rodman jersey bulls shorts and dye your hair a weird color. Do think that many people would ask you who your supposed to be?

The Greatest said:

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Are all those who dress up as Jesus Christ racist anti-semites?


By the way, I just don't like the name Neal. I think its offensive and it angers me that its ok with so many people named Neal. Does it matter that I don't like it? No, but I still have a right to say when I think some names are ok or not. It comes down to that I personally just dont think its ever ok to be named Neal.

Gene-Paul Kelly said:

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Suprised that no one noticed the IRONY of Pat Kane goin as No Tippin Pippen.......

The Greatest said:

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Oh no you di'int!

SoStupid said:

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Stop it. It's a costume. Pippen and Rodman are black. They put on black makeup as part of the costume. Stop it with the racist talk. Stop it with the stupidity. Think about things logically. I know it's hard. Just stop it, stupid people.

Mike Kiley said:

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Hey, can't stop believing. If you like stupid, you have come to the right place. Sit down and stay a while.

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