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Warsaw councilman apologizes for blackening face to portray movie character

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 11:11 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2021 at 11:22 PM EDT
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RICHMOND Co., Va. (WWBT) - There is outrage over a white town councilman’s decision to blacken his skin to pose as a fictional musician from a popular movie. The image of Warsaw Councilman Faron Hamblin was shared on social media.

The Richmond County man posted the photo over the weekend and quickly removed it after people began calling it offensive. Although he didn’t respond to NBC12′s emails trying to get his side of the story for two days, he posted on Facebook apologizing, “I made a post that hurt a lot of folks and that was not my intention.”

He’s an elected official by day and a musician by night. Faron Hamblin, councilman of the town of Warsaw, Virginia in the Northern Neck, issued a public apology on his personal Facebook account. It drew tons of comments, mostly from people asking why he’s apologizing at all.

The music lover wrote, “In honor of my late friend, I went out as the legendary Randy Watson tonight. Give it up for my band Sexual Chocolate,” referencing a scene from the movie Coming to America. He said he did it to show respect. Hamblin has since removed the photo, although he says he doesn’t think there was anything wrong with wearing the dark makeup.

“Do you think that in many cases, it’s just ignorance? Do you think it’s just, ‘I didn’t know?’” NBC12 asked Dr. Andrea Simpson, a political science professor and diversity dean at the University of Richmond.

“I think, yes, in many cases,” Dr. Simpson replied.

She explains the hurtful history of white people blackening their faces.

“Black face minstrelsy originated from people who came to the South and observed Black people dancing, and the way that they entertained…They thought it would be fun to use black cork or shoe polish to blacken their faces and then perform,” Simpson said.

Here’s why it became offensive.

“The characters they come up with, Jim Crow, which was sort of a lazy, step and fetch it kind of character, and Zip Coon, who was someone who dressed up and used a lot of big words incorrectly so all of the characters developed through minstrelsy played into stereotypes,” Simpson said.

She says that’s important for context - even today.

“When you don’t know what the history is, it may seem to you based on your knowledge of where we are today, it may seem to you that this is harmless and we’re all just having fun, but in doing that, we’re actually hurting people,” Simpson said.

“Some people might ask in 2021 - if my favorite singer was Michael Jackson; if my skin is white, is that always unacceptable?” NBC12 asked.

“Yes, it almost is, unfortunately, and I do think you can pay tribute and go from house to house for Halloween dressed as Beyonce without blackening your face because that’s her skin color. It’s not her distinguishing feature, right? It’s really not,” Dr. Simpson responded.

Hamblin said in the post that’s now been removed, “what cuts really deep” is that fact he was called a racist after darkening his face. “I try to be a good person and help others regardless of who they are,” he continued.

Again, the councilman did not respond to NBC12′s requests for an interview.

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