Ky. Church Employee Faces Criticism on Social Media for Wearing Blackface During Boxing Match Skit

A Kentucky pastor who organized a conference where his assistant donned blackface for a boxing match skit has said he is sorry if anyone took offense to the skit.

"If we did something to offend someone, it was out of ignorance and I apologize," Jeff Fugate, who oversaw last week's National Young Fundamentalists Conference at Clay Mills Road Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., where he pastors, told The Daily Mail.

Expand | Collapse
(Photo: Twitter)Joseph Pickens, personal assistant to Kentucky pastor Jeff Fugate, wore blackface as part of a boxing skit at the National Young Fundamentalists Conference on March 7, 2014.

Fugate said that he does not pre-approve skits and has never done so in previous years of the conference, though from now on all ideas will go through him. The pastor also said that many of his church attenders are African American, and that he has "absolutely zero racism in [his] heart toward black people."

After The Daily Mail reporter asked him how "a white man wearing blackface in the South could not raise any red flags," Fugate again claimed ignorance and said the stunt "was innocent, I promise you."

He added that he only received news that his skit was poorly received from people who had spoken out against it on Twitter.

As part of the skit (below), Pickens took on a man pretending to be Curly from the "Three Stooges." Pickens' character lost after Curly uppercut a black stunt double, who was filling in for Pickens, and flipped him "unconscious" onto the ground.

Fugate defended his assistant, saying he had "just graduated last year from our Bible College" and "was not even a pastor."

Pickens tweeted a picture of himself in blackface last week prior to the event captioned, "'#NYFC 2014 fool! It's about to go down! Who thinks they can contend with the champ?" His Twitter account @josephgpickens has since been deleted.

Julianne Hough was criticized last October for donning blackface at a Halloween party after she dressed up as an "Orange Is the New Black" character. Celebrities Ted Danson, Billy Cyrstal and Sarah Silverman have also been censured for donning blackface.

Students from the University of Florida commented on Facebook that the root of the blackface offense came because it highlights "caricatures of negative stereotypes of African Americans that have been used to justify the dehumanization of black people since we were brought to the Americas."

It explained that "these caricatures were displayed in minstrel shows that were a form of entertainment during the late-19th century and through the early to mid-20th century. In these shows, black people were not called in to tell a joke or two. We were the joke."

When white actors portrayed black people during these minstrel shows, they would overexaggerate their physical traits, including wearing red lipstick around their mouths because African American lips were allegedly bigger and painting black paint over their eyes to make it appear that their eyes had grown in size.

"When we see individuals in blackface, we have an immediate visceral reaction and are reminded of a time when our uniquely physical attributes — our dark skin, our full lips, our tightly coiled hair, our large eyes — were the joke," the post explained.