When I read this Washington Post article, I was surprised to find out that Armisen is part Asian. I always thought he was Latino -- which he is, part. According to IMDB, he's of German, Japanese and Venezuelan ancestry.
On the surface, I see why people are making a stink. Blackface (or yellowface and any other face) is racist, oppressive, exploitative, and rooted in violence.
But does the fact that SNL seems to frequently cast people as different races and sexual orientations, and the fact that Armisen is also mixed race (though not black) like Obama, make any difference at all?
The Post writer points out this isn't the first time SNL has cast nonwhite actors to play blacks, or any other race. Or vice versa. For example, Amisen regularly plays Prince. Have people been upset about it in the past?
In fact, if you read Armisen's Wikipedia entry, it says he's plays all sorts of people -- a Jew, Iranian, black, Latino, gay, etc. -- and I'm sure the other cast members have a similar list.
In either case, what do you all think? Is this blackface and should people be offended? Are you offended?
I think it also gets to a deeper point, as a professor at USC points out in the article, of lack of black (and other people of color) representation in TV and media in general -- and the ability to so easily cast a nonwhite person as a person of color, versus the other way around:
"Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California, says viewers might have a different reaction if the roles were reversed. What if, he says, 'SNL' had cast a black woman to portray Hillary Clinton? 'Do you think there's ever going to be a day when we start casting Queen Latifah to portray Princess Diana?' he asks. 'We just don't have the same representations going in other direction.'"
Apparently, SNL is going to continue using Armisen as Barack, including tonight's episode.