If you want to feel sick to your stomach about the state of race in America, this article is for you! Ebony Magazine has an interview with Bobby Berger, a former cop involved with a fundraiser for the cops who murdered Freddie Gray in Baltimore earlier this year.
Fundraising for policemen who illegally arrested and then murdered a 25-year-old Black man after breaking his spine? Ugh. And it gets worse…
Berger has decided to help fundraiser by doing his Al Jolson impression in full blackface. Yes, you read that correctly — blackface.
Al Jolson was a early 20th century minstrel singer; a white man who’d perform traditionally black songs while wearing makeup to make him look like a terrible stereotype of a black person.
Since I don’t really wanna post a video of America’s racist history, in lieu of an Al Jolson clip, here’s a kitten meeting a hedgehog.
In fact, it’s Berger’s Al Jolson impression that made Berger an ex-cop. In 1984, the Baltimore PD fired him over his performances. Yet, still, he insists that his performance doesn’t have a racial element.
In the interview with Ebony‘s senior editor Jamilah Lemieux, Berger invokes the “my best friend is Black!” defense:
He says that many Black people have attended his shows over the years and support this assertion. Among them: a Black reporter from a local newspaper who he knew from high school and boxing great Joe Frazier, who Berger claims joined him in song after watching one of his performances (“The only thing I can tell you is that the heavyweight champion of the world isn’t going to stand by and watch me mock Black people.” He claims to have some footage of this interaction somewhere.)
“I was on Montell Williams in Blackface and he said on national TV that there was nothing racist about it. Ben Vereen commented on the show, he was fine with it,” says Berger. Though I could not find footage of the Montell Williams appearance, the talk show host famously turned his back on Ted Danson at his notorious Friars Club performance. What exactly is the difference?
“What Danson was doing was making fun, being mean-spirited. I am just performing as Al Jolson.”
To call the murder of Freddie Gray “racially charged” is an understatement, but it’s hard to think of what could be a more offensive fundraiser for the police officers charged with his murder than blackface.
To watch Berger do his act costs $45. If you’ve got that money burning a hole in your pocket, rather than go to Berger’s fundraiser, I’d suggest sending the $45 to the official Freddie Gray Fund and watching this cute dog meet a baby bunny.
UPDATE: The fundraiser has been cancelled. You may still donate to Freddie Gray’s family and watch the cute puppy and bunny.