We can talk about Al Jolson, the singer, the actor, the comedian. The first openly Jewish man to rise to star status in America. Or the trends Al set for many Jewish entertainers. Or the millions he contributed to various Jewish charities.
But we can't.
We have to talk about blackface.
Blackface, for the blissfully unaware, is the practice of performing in makeup used to imitate a black person. And Al Jolson was the master.
How exactly are we going to defend that one?
Well, would you believe that Jolson wore blackface to honor his love for jazz, blues, and ragtime? That his most famed movie, "The Jazz Singer", attempted to fight racism by introducing white Americans to black music? That Jolson tried to help various African Americans get jobs on Broadway and in film? That he was "the only white man allowed into an all-black nightclub in Harlem"? That he helped pave the way for Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and others?
So yeah, in the 80 years that passed blackface has taken on negative connotations. But how could have Al known that?
He could have looked at himself in the mirror.