White NJ Candidate Who Dressed as Kanye Says He ‘Never Heard of Blackface’
Another white politician finds himself in a blackface controversy after a decade-old photo surfaced of him dressed up as Kanye West in brown makeup.
Westhampton committee candidate Karl Eversmeyer appears in a photo next to a black man while wearing makeup to appear black himself.
Members of the Republican's own party have condemned the photo as "racist." But Eversmeyer, 33, has remained defiant and claimed that he never heard of blackface until recently.
He shared on his campaign Facebook page what he said was a statement from the friend who hosted the party.
"The picture in question was taken out of context," the statement says. "It was a halloween party that was held at my home in 2009(?). We requested and held a contest for our guests to come dressed up as something unique."
The statement signed by "Phil G" also said, "No one took it as racist that attended the party everyone took it as he [Eversmeyer] thought outside the box and won the best costume contest."
"10 years ago, Kanye West was a cultural icon and so was Taylor Swift," Eversmeyer said in a written statement to New Jersey 101.5. "During the MTV video awards there was a moment no one could forget and is still talked about today. One of my best friends invited me to his Halloween party. He told us he wanted everyone to go all out and you had to be in a costume. I worked at a Haunted Hayride and wore black, gray and brown makeup just about every night as part of my costume. For the party I dressed up as Kanye West. My now wife dressed as T Swift. My rendition was not in malice or intent to harm the African American culture."
Eversmeyer also said, "I had never even heard of blackface until recent political news. Cultural misappropriation is an ever-evolving issue. I would never wear makeup to cause harm to my fellow community members."
He also said, "I ask that we all realize that we need to respect everyone's feelings and that goes for not just makeup but masks as well."
Blackface has historically been used by white, and even black, performers to lampoon black people using racist caricatures, such as using back paint on skin. In recent decades, white actors using makeup to appear of a different race has also been frowned upon and considered offensive.
As reported by the Cherry Hill Courier Post, incumbent township Committeeman Tony De Silva and former Mayor Carolyn V. Chang released a statement that said Eversmeyer wearing blackface as West was "racist" and "disgusting."
Both are Democrats, while Eversmeyer is a Republican who is challenging current Westhampton Democratic Mayor John P. Wisniewski for the sole committee seat up for election on Nov. 5. (This is a different politician than John S. Wisniewski, from Middlesex County, who served as a Democratic Assemblyman from 1996 to 2018).
The other remaining four committee members also are Democrats, according to the Burlington County Times.
In a separate Facebook post Monday, Eversmeyer said "It is being demanded by Chang that I drop out of the race over a Halloween costume in 2009 when I dressed up as Kanye West. Unfortunately, I will not be giving into their demands. It's a valiant effort, but I am devoted to all Westampton residents and will continue to fight for them."
The Westhampton Republican club said in a comment on Facebook that Chang's call for Eversmeyer to drop out was "quite ironic," with a claim that the former mayor (who served in office from 2013-2016) once voted against "hiring a policeman and announced it was because he was white."
The photos also drew criticism from Republican incumbent Assemblyman Ryan Peters of Burlington County and his running mate, Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield. As reported by InsiderNJ.com, the duo called on Eversmeyer to suspend his campaign, saying they "strongly condemn these racist photos."