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April 3, 2014

Did Nick Cannon go too far?

By Timothy Simko


Rapper Nick Cannon has stirred up controversy this past week after sharing photos and videos on his Instagram account of himself in whiteface makeup complete with blond hair and a stereotypical “skater boy” accent.

On March 23, while promoting his upcoming album “White People Party Music”, Cannon posted a picture of himself in the whiteface attire with the following caption: “It’s official... I’m White!!! #WHITEPEOPLEPARTYMUSIC #Wppm in stores April 1st!!!!!!Dude Go Get It!!! Join The Party!!!! #GoodCredit #DogKissing #BeerPong #FarmersMarkets #FistPumping #CreamCheeseEating #RacialDraft ‘Bro I got drafted!!’”

Cannon has been referring to this new whiteface character as “Connor Smallnut,” causing controversy both online and offline.

“I don’t like that,” said Kaala Walker, a Cleveland State University student. “It takes me back to when white people had blackface, this isn’t any better.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines blackface as “makeup applied to a performer playing a black person especially in a minstrel show.”

However, some Twitter users seem to disagree with this belief. @utt_jamie tweeted “Stop claiming that @NickCannon’s use of ‘White Face’ is the same thing as ‘Black Face.’ Your ignorance of history and power is showing.”

In the early years of film, whites in blackface typically played black characters. Well-known entertainers who have worn blackface in films include Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple, and Judy Garland.

However, Cleveland State student John Cipolla agrees with Walker.

“If you’re going to call an album White People Party music, you’re asking for racial overtones,” he said. “This act by Nick Cannon is only going to increase racial tension.”

Despite the controversy, Cipolla believes that Cannon is doing this stunt to try and reach out to the white market. He feels that while on the surface it may seem stupid, it will turn heads and become a trending topic.

“It’s a clever move because a lot of white people listen to rap music,” he said. “People might be more intrigued [about the album] because of it.”

This controversy could be compared to what Miley Cyrus did before her latest album was released. In August 2013, Miley Cyrus gave a provocative performance at the MTV Video Music Awards that garnered much publicity, two months before her album “Bangerz” was released. “Bangerz” went on to debut at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200.

Walker disagrees and feels that it won’t help album sales at all.

“He’s doing this to be funny, but it’s not,” she said. “He’s not thinking about the consequences. What’s the point?”

Although students may feel that this act may increase racial tension, Cannon’s twitter followers disagree.

“What ur doing is hilarious! There are stereotypes in all races! People need to just laugh about it #goodfun #toosensitive,” Twitter user @britnimmorgan tweeted.

“I can’t even say ‘Connor Smallnut’ without laughing. Hilarious! We need more laughs in the world. Signed, white chic,” said Twitter user @Dena_K in agreement.

However, not everyone on Twitter agrees with Cannon’s tactics.

Twitter user @Detroits tweeted: “@LYMMimi @ferratix @NickCannon @MariahCarey if he had real talent he wouldn’t need shock tactics to sell his album. It would just sell.”

Over the past few days, Cannon has retweeted some of the positive feedback on his Twitter account and has been trying to reassure everyone through his Instagram that he is just having fun. On March 24, Cannon posted another picture of himself in his Connor Smallnut persona with a caption reading: “Duuuude everybody Chil-lax!!!!” ~ Connor Smallnut”

Cannon himself doesn’t find his whiteface character offensive, comparing it to Robert Downey Jr.’s blackface character in “Tropic Thunder”.

In “Tropic Thunder”, Downey plays a Caucasian-Australian actor who is so committed to method acting an African-American character that he has his skin surgically darkened. In reference to Downey wearing blackface to portray the character, Sergeant Lincoln Osiris, Cannon wrote on Instagram: “Shout out to @RobertDowneyJr This is one of my favorite characters of all time! Hilarious!!! There is a big difference between Humor and Hatred.”

Despite the controversy in “Tropic Thunder”, Downey was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the film.

Whether or not people find the whiteface character offensive, Cannon tweeted that he loves the conversation the Connor Smallnut character has generated, and feels that it shows a lot of people’s true colors.