Nick Cannon’s “Whiteface” Stunt Brings Up Racism and Bigotry for All the Wrong Reasons

The actor turned singer paints his face white just to be able to sell more records

Scandals in Hollywood are a dime a dozen. Whether it’s feuds, outrageous behavior or lewd material, Hollywood never fails to deliver for people looking for a bit of controversy. But this week, Nick Cannon, a man that so far has managed to stay pretty much off the radar, decided that it was time to start a storm.

These days Nick is launching his first album in over a decade, and right from the title you realize that it’s going to be controversial. The album is called “White People Party Music” and that is because Nick, in his extensive career as a party DJ, claims to have noticed that “white people” tend to have the most fun at parties.

He points out that “As a DJ, you name all your different playlists and your crates that you keep your music in. I had all these crates, and thought about mixing them from Dirty South to Midwest -- and one crate is called White People Party Music. It's hilarious -- when I came up with that title, I thought I have to name my album that. I just kind of stuck with it from there.”

While the title would have been controversial enough in itself, Nick decided to up the ante and settled for a promotional campaign for the album that still has the Internet buzzing. Painting his face white, the singer appears in a couple of photos as a Caucasian man called Connor Smallnut.

Connor happens to embody a lot of racial stereotypes, from his clothing to his vocabulary and mannerism, and this immediately drew a response from people on social media. While some immediately felt disgusted by the stunt and claimed that this was just “blackface” in reverse, others claimed they were not offended.

The words “racial,” “bigotry” and “double standard” kept popping up, but Cannon casually dismissed them all and added more videos in which his Connor persona plays on even more stereotypes.

As major publications such as the Chicago Sun Times and the LA Times published unflattering pieces, Cannon didn’t back down. He fired back at detractors, calling them “haters” and blasting them for missing the point. To add support to his cause, he made a direct reference to Robert Downey Jr.'s “blackface” character in the movie “Tropic Thunder.”

While actress Julianne Hough was recently forced to apologize for appearing in a blackface for a Halloween costume inspired by her favorite character in the series “Orange Is the New Black,” Nick Cannon is certainly not taking anything back and he’s rubbing it in people’s faces that they are too uptight when it comes to racial stereotypes.

Meanwhile, his album, which is due out on April 1, is getting one hell of a promotion campaign. This then means that his whiteface stunt has done its job perfectly, even if it managed to play on people's feelings.

So what then is the issue here? The issue is the fact that Cannon would use this shady technique that opens up so many cans of worms to shamelessly plug his new album. In this respect, his whiteface is no better than the blackface white actors and singers put on during performances, since those too were made for personal gain.

Selling more copies of your album is in no way a good enough excuse to go racial, which is why people are so affected by this. Cannon certainly isn’t the first African-American to paint his face white, it’s been done by comedians before, but Cannon’s stunt seems done as lowbrow and in poor taste.

People will always be offended and have strong opinions in all matters so it’s very hard to draw lines in this respect. The only thing we should be guiding our final verdict on is the final outcome of this stunt.

Whereas comedians such as Dave Chapelle and Eddie Murphy used this device to point out flaws in people and correct them using satire and comedy, Cannon simply doesn’t get that point and becomes controversial when trying to push an album that could have otherwise gone unnoticed by the vast majority of people out there.

His unrepentant attitude makes it even worse, because it reveals that he is still unaware of the moral issues involved, or, if he is, he is choosing to totally ignore them purely for personal monetary gain. And therein lays the problem.

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