Every Black Person on Planet is Offended by Blackface: Rickman on LIVE

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


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Ray Rickman

Former State Representative Ray Rickman joined GoLocal News Editor Kate Nagle on LIVE after a photo of Jim Hummel, the investigative reporter for the Providence Journal and host of “The Lively Experiment” of RI PBS, in blackface has emerged and was sent to GoLocal.

The photo of Hummel was taken when he was about 30-year-old and was a news reporter for the Providence Journal. At that time, Blackface had been considered to be racist for decades. 

“Every black person on the planet is offended by [blackface], hurt by it. We ought to change society and people who are not stone-cold racists should not be out doing these things. Then the next thing, they want to apologize for it, or [say] it was a “youthful indiscretion” — how racism can be a youthful indiscretion ever you’re over five years old I don’t know,” said Rickman. “I’m not into apologies. It’s just a little set of words.  I think you should do something good that equals it — go over to the John Hope Center and volunteer.”

“I tell everyone they need to teach their children. We’re having this public discussion — the mother sitting there reading GoLocal should call her son or daughter and say this is bad, it should not happen in society and I pray you’ll never do this.  So yes, this is a teaching moment,” said Rickman.

According to the Smithsonian's Museum of African American History and Culture, "Blackface and the codifying of blackness— language, movement, deportment, and character—as caricature persists through mass media and in public performances today.  In addition to the increased popularity of “black” Halloween costumes, colleges and universities across the country continue to battle against student and professor blackface performances.  In each instance, those facing scrutiny for blackface performances insist no malice or racial hatred was intended."

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Photo of then Providence Journal reporters Hiday and Hummel

No apology by Hummel

On Monday night, Jim Hummel told GoLocal, "My recollection is that Jeff (Hiday, then another Projo reporter) and I went to a Halloween Party back in the 1980s when we were roommates. Miami Vice was a popular TV program at the time and we decided to go as the two main characters, Crockett and Tubbs - in part because Jeff looked like Don Johnson and had a white linen suit. It was a very long time ago when I was a young man and clearly not reflective of my values and I think anybody who knows me would see it in that context."

"Jim Hummel isn't on our staff; we have a contract to run his stories because of his excellent investigative journalism. Regarding Linda Borg, I don't know which comments you're talking about, as you haven't provided them. Whatever they are, Linda doesn't speak for the Journal. She and our other reporters maintain their own private social-media accounts, which are separate from ours," said Alan Rosenberg, Executive Editor of the Providence Journal. Rosenberg was then sent a copy of the photo and the comment by Borg, but he offered to additional comment. 

The picture, which was posted to Facebook and tagged Hummel, included a comment from Providence Journal reporter Linda Borg who wrote, “Don’t tell the NAACP about this.”

On Monday, the Providence Journal published a story about the Edwards Twins, who in their performance portray African-American performers. In the article about the Edwards, the Journal reported, “The white duo, who were supposed to perform their impersonation act at The Gamm Theatre on Monday, have worn skin-darkening makeup to portray Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder, which the Providence branch of the NAACP calls 'misguided' and 'tone deaf.'"

“Blackface…amongst all the racist acts, it’s not at the top of the list, but you get tired of it,” said Rickman. “You know, in the ‘60s, I thought by the year 2000 everything would be perfect, or quiet — can you hear what I’m saying? I’m not like other people who think there are no racists I America. I do. There are plenty of them.  I’m not surprised by any of it.”

Diversity at the Providence Journal

In 2017, GoLocal reported that the Providence Journal newsroom was void of any minority reporters or editors.

The Providence Journal currently does not employ a minority reporter or editor. For the daily newspaper in an urban community that is majority-minority, the lack of any representation in the newsroom is in stark contrast to the community it covers. 

In 2015, the Providence Journal wrote a multi-piece series titled "Race in Rhode Island," but now less than two years later, the last minority reporter, Alisha Pina, has resigned and taken a job in public relations for the State of Rhode Island.

“I was saddened to see Alisha Pina move on. While our communities have become more diverse in cultures, races and languages spoken, the newsrooms made up of people of color have reduced drastically,” said Ann Clanton of the National Association of Black Journalists, New England Chapter.


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