The Racist, Destructive Insinuations of Banning Impressionism

edwardstwin-lionelrichie-featured

This sort of thing makes me embarrassed for the era in which we’re living:

The Gamm Theatre has canceled a Monday performance by the Edwards Twins, apparently over concerns that the Las Vegas-based impersonation act uses white performers to portray black celebrities.

Anthony Edwards, who with brother Eddie makes up the act, said that, while they have impersonated Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder in the past, their Christmas show this year does not include any black celebrities. Edwards said he even went so far as to sign a contract with The Gamm stipulating that the duo would not use any skin-darkening makeup.

Are we all children?  These are impersonators. They perform as a broad array of stars, and for each one, they try to look as much like the performer as possible, whether it’s Cher or Elton John or Lionel Richie.  Cher has longer hair and breasts.  Elton John dresses flamboyantly.  Lionel Richie has darker skin.

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The claimed matter of concern is the history of black face, but as one of the performers explains, this is not that.  Black face was not simply imitation, but a specific, demeaning style of performance.  To equate impressionism with that is not only historically ignorant but also implicitly racist because it requires that any imitation of a black person must be mockery, as if there is no positive reason to take on the persona of a black person.

Making matters worse, agreeing to remove these supposedly offensive vignettes from their act for this performance — ironically, creating a segregated performance, as if no black singers are worthy of inclusion — was apparently not enough.  The fact that they have performed them in the past taints all of their shows.

James Vincent of the Providence NAACP and The Gamm theater should be ashamed.  They are contributing to the deterioration of our society and the destruction of our ability to see ourselves as one people.

Featured image from an Edwards Twins promotional video.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    This is not about “black face”, it is about “face time”. If the NAACP were not doing “something”, it would not be unreasonable for the public to assume there was nothing for them to do.

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