Russian state TV broadcaster features racist segment of an actress in blackface doing a portrayal of Obama

  • Russian state broadcaster NTV aired an attempted satirical segment over the weekend with a Russian actress in blackface portraying former US president Barack Obama in blackface.
  • The host, Tigran Keosayan, asks a series of racist questions about Obama's new book, "A Promised Land," while the actress in blackface screams "Black Lives Matter" and says her family can't write.
  • The host's wife, Russian-state controlled network RT's editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, defended the skit and said that due to her husband's ethnic Armenian background, he jokes about marginalized communities. 
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Kremlin-affiliated TV station NTV aired a racist program over the weekend featuring a Russian actress in blackface, apparently posing as former US president Barack Obama.

In 2008, Obama was the first Black man to be elected as president of the United States — more than 140 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln, which effectively ended 400 years of the enslavement of Black men, women, and children in the United States.

Blackface is part of that enduring legacy of slavery and racism in the US, a remnant of minstrel shows, in which white Americans painted their face black to mock black people with racist caricatures in the 1800s.

The racist skit appeared on NTV's "Mezhdunarodnaya Pilorama" or "International Sawmill," a satirical show with Tigran Keosayan as the host. In the segment, a Russian actress appears as Obama, wearing blackface and baggy clothes and a bandana and gesturing in an attempt to mimic rappers.

The segment ran about a minute and a half and Keosayan promotes it as an interview with Obama about his new book, "A Promised Land." 

"We now go live to the dark side of America's history, Barack Obama," Keosayan says, introducing the actress in blackface.

The actress immediately chants "Black lives matter!" to which Keosayan asks her to stop shouting and says that racism does not exist in Russia. Keosayan then continues with racist questions about the book.

Keosayan asks the actress if she is proud of her book, to which she says, "Of course." Keosayan then asks, "Because none of your relatives have written books?" to which she replies, "Because none of my relatives that came before me could write." 

Keosayan then tells her she should have been a rapper and not a US president, and the actress starts to rap for the host. 

NTV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of the Russian-state controlled network RT and Keosayan's partner, defended the skit on Twitter, and additional reporting from the Moscow Times uncovered that the pair were co-writers. Simonyan argued that Keosayan's background as an ethnic Armenian and self-deprecating humor about his background meant that the new skit was not over the top.

 

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny posted on Twitter, bashing the segment and sarcastically saying that he couldn't "ignore another masterpiece" from the pair, also alleging that the two writers profit heavily from the skit and have sent their daughter to study in the US.

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