Racist joke from over 20 years ago comes back to haunt comedian during recent uptick in her career
An old video from the 1998 comedy special, I’m Still Here… Damn It, by Pose star, Sandra Bernhard is circulating on Twitter. In the clip, Bernhard insults Mariah Carey and refers to her as “ni**erish.”
“And now (she’s) trying to backtrack on our a**es, acting real ni**erish up there at the Royalton Hotel suite with Puff Daddy and all the greasy, chain-wearing Black men.”
In a higher-pitched voice, used to emulate Carey’s voice, Bernhard continues the joke, “Oh yeah, Daddy. This feels kinda good. I didn’t know I would be into this.”
Ending with the punchline, “I’ve got a little bit of Black in me, too. I didn’t tell you that.” Carey is a biracial woman: African American and Venezuelan on her father’s side and white Irish on her mother’s side. She has always publicly identified as a Black woman.
The joke received intense backlash when the special was first released and may have caused Bernhard setbacks in her career. In fact, Pose is the comedian’s first major television role in a decade.
Pose star Indya Moore tweeted that the clip was “very hurtful, confusing, and disappointing.”
In a 1999 interview with Mirabella, Carey said Bernhard “used words about me that every African American I know — and definitely I personally — find inappropriate. If my skin were two shades darker, she wouldn’t have done it. I think she perceives me as white, which is a common perception. And, yeah, I am a freaking mutt and interracial freak, but she implied I was a white person trying to be Black.”
For years, Bernhard has defended her use of the word. She was even interviewed for a documentary called, The N-Word.
In a 1998 New York Magazine interview, she claimed that she had “carte-blanche” to use the word “from my friend Paul Mooney.” She said, “Plus, I have a huge Black following, so you know, it’s like a Black person saying it.”
While Bernhard has yet to address the clip again. However in 1999 on Watch What Happens Live, she said she and Carey “made up.”
Bernhard is a film actress, singer, and stand-up comedian. Her role as Nurse Judy on Pose depicts her as an aggressive advocate for HIV and AIDS patients, particularly those of color.
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