Saturday, December 03, 2005

Where is Al Jolsen when you need him?

How do you respond when a white Quaker chaplain dresses in drag and blackface and performs songs that stereotype African Americans?

I learned about "The Twelve Days of Kwaanza" on Intelligence Squad and Daily Kos, but the story is really much more interesting and complex than I thought. Chuck Knipp, who sings in drag as Shirley Q. Liquor, is clerk of the Gulf Coast Quakers, a professional chaplain, and a minister with the American Unitarian Conference. He is also a notary public, a registered nurse, and a libertarian. He does a radio show called "Daily Ignunce," and has performed with Tracy Morgan and Rupaul.

Shirley Q. Liquor is an intensely religious alcoholic black woman with nineteen children. Knipp's portray of Shirley has resulted in one of his sold-out New York shows being picketed by protesters.

Considering Knipp's association with African American performers, notably fellow comic Morgan, there is at least some evidence that some African Americans have accepted his act within a context of their knowlege of him. On the other side of the equation, however, is the fact that Knipp's holiday song is getting a lot of airplay on stations that are maybe not known for, shall we say, their hip sense of humor.

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