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Bert Weiss allows nine-year-old son to wear brown makeup to portray Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali with Hayden Weiss, Bert's son. CREDIT: Bert Weiss

Muhammad Ali with Hayden Weiss, Bert's son. CREDIT: Bert Weiss

Q100’s Bert Weiss allowed his nine-year-old son Hayden to wear brown makeup to portray boxing legend Muhammad Ali as part of a school assignment.

Weiss himself said he “flinched” when Hayden told him what he wanted to do.

When Weiss first posed this topic in February to the radio audience, the conversation became heated. Some listeners felt this was a bad idea, that the repercussions would be quite negative given the history of “black face” and minstrel shows in American culture, especially in the 19th century. The practice was to stereotype and mock black people to entertain white people at the time.

But others felt like it was okay because Hayden’s intent was “pure,” that he merely wanted to honor the legacy of Ali, who fought for equal rights in the 1960s and 1970s. “He was a great American because he stood up for what he believed in,” Weiss noted. “He believed he was treated poorly because of the color of his skin.”

Hayden would first do an oral essay as Ali in first person, then dress up as Ali. Weiss, unsure what to do, wrote a letter to Ali and his wife Yolanda, which reached the boxer through a mutual friend. They heard through that friend that Ali was okay with it, that they found it offensive anybody would be offended by what Hayden wanted to do. “I literally cried,” Weiss said. After Weiss did thorough research on “black face,” he decided to allow Hayden to wear the brown make up.

At the school, Weiss said on air this morning, there was no backlash, not even from black families. In fact, a white girl also wore makeup to portray Rosa Parks. He decided not to talk about it on air for a few weeks, to give it some distance from the initial brouhaha. Recently, he heard that Ali wanted to meet Hayden.

Two days ago, when Ali was in Atlanta with his wife, the Weiss family met Ali for 30 minutes in his hotel room. Ali, who is nearing 70 and sufferieng from Parkinson’s Disease, was not faring well, Weiss said. But when Ali saw Weiss’ two sons, including Hayden, he brightened.

Hayden read his essay to Ali. Ali was visibly affected. He hugged Hayden. He held onto the essay and wouldn’t let go. Weiss said Ali wanted the essay in his museum.

On air, Hayden called the experience “awesome.” Stacy tearfully said this was one of the most touching days of her life, after marrying Bert and the birth of her two sons.

Weiss said he was at peace with his decision, even though a lot of people will not like it.

“If it offends you,” Weiss said on air, “we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

You can read the entire story online and watch video.

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

77 comments Add your comment

Will

April 20th, 2012
8:51 am

This happened on an episode of Designing Women.

Rich Black

April 20th, 2012
8:51 am

Who is Bert Weiss?

Pitchy

April 20th, 2012
8:52 am

I am a fan of The Bert Show and have been following the quandry Bert thought he might be in if he allowed Hayden to portray Muhammed Ali. I so very glad he allowed him to go ahead with his project. I’m also glad that young Hayden had the opportunity to meet the person he admired. For such a young child to understand all that he understands in his short 9 years of life is inspiring.

“If it offends you,” Weiss said on air, “we’ll have to agree to disagree.” – When he said this, I smiled and did a little clap while driving into work.

EXCELLENT JOB BERT AND STACEY!!!

Pitchy

April 20th, 2012
8:53 am

Bert Weiss is a father, a husband and he has his own radio show = The Bert Show on Q100. Check him out. It’s a great show.

MissPeachy

April 20th, 2012
8:53 am

Our goal was to raise our future generations to love and respect people of all colors. We’re pretty darn close to that goal -and if we truly want to abolish racism, we have to allow for respectful demonstrations like Hayden’s. That leaders of all colors are being honored and lifted up by our children today, shows that we’ve on the right path.

And truly the greatest form of flattery is imitation. I see no reason why any child should be looked down upon for dressing up as one of their heroes. Hayden doesn’t see a “black man” when he looks at Ali -he just sees a great man that he’d like to be like. That was our goal. Now we, the older generations have to recognize it and respect it -and let our old defenses go. Let the children lead the way and applaud them for it.

Brett

April 20th, 2012
9:00 am

This sounds like an episode of the 1980’s sitcom, “Diff’rent Strokes.”

my 2 cents

April 20th, 2012
9:03 am

Would have been better if he did not have Ali in his back pocket already. Pub Stunt!

kITTY

April 20th, 2012
9:09 am

WOW, what a great story.

Judge Smails

April 20th, 2012
9:14 am

Wow, must be a really slow news day!

I do have one burning question though…why would he pimp his son out just make himself look enlightened?

DUMB ARSES

April 20th, 2012
9:15 am

People who are upset by this is the reason this country still has issues. Great parenting lesson Bert thanks for the help… I listen when you talk about how you and Stacie are helping your kids….. My wife and I have used some of your tactics…

DUMB ARSES

April 20th, 2012
9:18 am

Also what is Wendy’s role in the Show?
Jenn – FSU no matter What she does its ok? Really adds to the show and interviews…
Jeff- Smart Ass = Awesome
Kristen – The chick you want in your group. Plus she is HOT!!!!!
Bert- His show and very open which is rare and cool
Wendy – Traffic and whinning about crap… NOT SURE… But she is a pretty face…..

Answer

April 20th, 2012
9:29 am

I can answer that. Wendy’s job is to ask “What does that word mean,” talk in a contrived little girl voice, and never have an opinion of her own. She always waits to hear someone else’s opinion because she is weak-minded and insecure. She let JH know how much she admired Jenn, and Wendy became Jenn’s project — got her started reading traffic and then helped her get a permanent spot on the show. I really have never heard someone on a radio station with such poor grammar. She adds NOTHING.

Kudos to Bert for going ahead Hayden’s representation of Muhammed!

Bert Show listener

April 20th, 2012
9:31 am

Happy ending to the story. You will never make everyone happy!

Pitchy

April 20th, 2012
9:33 am

Bert did not pimp his son out, nor did he do this for publicity ratings. If you knew the background of his relationship with his own father you would quickly realize he would NEVER, EVER jeopardize his love for his children and how they see and feel about their father. He was torn between what his son wanted to do. He researched it, asked a gazillion of questions, weighed the pros and cons, and in the end did the right thing.

Ned Puddleman

April 20th, 2012
9:34 am

People just need to get a grip and get over every action being offensive.

Kay

April 20th, 2012
9:38 am

I’m Black and I think this is a great story, this little boy just wanted to do an essay on someone he liked, it was not about race, it was about one of his heros, We all use to be like this, before we taught to hate.

Liberals Are Lying Racist Hypocrites

April 20th, 2012
9:41 am

Bert Weiss is a racist!!!!!!! HYPOCRITES…..if this was a conservative that did this you would all be whining

Ew

April 20th, 2012
9:42 am

Ummmm… Did anyone forget the movie “White Chicks”? Not fair to blast white people when black people do the same thing. If we’re gonna be racist, it’s only ethical to recognize BOTH sides of the aisle.

Liberals Are Lying Racist Hypocrites

April 20th, 2012
9:59 am

why not just get the damn kid a Ali Mask so he can do it stupid report…..they have to use black face? The SCHOOL IS RACIST AS WELL!!

Pitchy

April 20th, 2012
10:00 am

@Kay, I am black as well and I am not offended. To each their own, but everyone is not going to agree with everything a person does. Agree to disagree. It doesn’t affect your household or your life, so leave it alone, Voice of Reason!

prettygurl1908

April 20th, 2012
10:03 am

Wow! I like this! As Black folks, we spend an enormous amount of time being offended and not enough time educating folks. Yes, we have come a long way, but if we don’t embrace ALL of our history (good and painful), we will never get to where we need to be.

HCCynic

April 20th, 2012
10:03 am

Glad to see the AJC is allowing an open dialogue of the topic on this board.

NOT!!!

I have to wonder what word, which observation, it was in my comment that got me flagged or deleted…

D-$

April 20th, 2012
10:36 am

I’m going to dress my kid up like Bert Weiss

Pitchy

April 20th, 2012
10:40 am

Thank you AJC!!!

Rich Black

April 20th, 2012
10:48 am

Ok, I used to listen when they played music. I stopped when it became an all talk station.

Mike

April 20th, 2012
10:53 am

There was similar mess after Billy Crystal dressed up as Sammy Davis Jr at the Oscars (for about ten seconds in a parody of “Midnight in Paris.”) If you’re representing a specific person, why is it offensive to look like him?

Blackface minstrels were generic characters reinforcing negative stereotypes.

rod

April 20th, 2012
10:53 am

My comment is if everyone thinks it is fine then why was there a debate between Bert and his wife? I would say because this is the south and no matter how hard people want to believe racism is dead since we have a mixed race President we all know that is not the case. I understand why some people think this should be fine and I also understand why people didn’t like it. The real issue has multiple layers from politics,voting, news stories to seeing real diversity on tv to behind the cameras etc. This is why some people take issue with such a situation. Yes there are more important issues always. I just find it funny that the black guy who I haven’t heard speak in a while was on the show this morning talking about this issue.(does anyone know if he has been on the show in recent days/weeks before today? just asking).Why is it that Allen West face is trotted out to talk about Nugent’s stupid comments? We all know why! Also think about changing this up and have a hispanic/asian/black child put on a yarmulke and some long curly locks and see that reaction or those same children putting on some straw hats,overalls and blacken out their teeth. Everyone is fine with everything until it impacts them. I care about the economic the racism is something for others to worry about. I worry about employment and jobs for people. That is the diversity I care about. Who is getting a steady paycheck. I find it funny that DWTS has no black dancers(to sterotype -aren’t blacks are suppose to be good at that but the show imported foreign dancers). wow diversity lololol yes I am black

bill t

April 20th, 2012
11:11 am

This dribble qualifies as journalism? No wonder ajc is in the crapper. Let’s lay off some more serious reporters so we can read about make-up. Tomorrow we will be doing a story of a colonoscopy with a camera on the bert show……..

Drake

April 20th, 2012
11:22 am

Why aren’t we offended by the fact that Ali hates America, was a draft dodger, renounced his citizenship, renounced his religion, etc. What a great “role model”. He should have followed his medal off that bridge in Louisville.

Ice Skating Diva

April 20th, 2012
11:24 am

Thank you, Bert Show, for reminding me to re-up my SIRIUS subscription as soon as possible.

conservativegenius

April 20th, 2012
11:25 am

Bert decided to do this because he could do it. There was no benefit in him allowing his kid to do this. He knew that it bothered others and he was not sensitive in the way that it could hurt others. I don’t think Bert is a racist because of this, but he is an elitist. I wonder how he would like it if a black kid decided to be painted as a white person…that alone wouldn’t balance things out in regard to racism, so let’s say the kid portrays Hilter. Now that would offend a lot of people and open up some wounds. A responsible decision from a parent should be made to not have their kid in a position to offend anyone. And he really wonders why his kid is being bullied?

RK

April 20th, 2012
11:29 am

Funny headline…”Bert Weiss at peace with son’s makeup”. Sounds like he was worried that he was cross-dressing.

Fire Wendy!

Jew on Jew crime

April 20th, 2012
11:33 am

Atlanta morning radio show = huge suckage regardless of the topic.

For those of you who like morning radio, stay home, you are in the way of the human race.

Rush Limbaugh

April 20th, 2012
11:36 am

Ali is a muslim, enemy of America.

Oh Please

April 20th, 2012
11:38 am

Oh PLEASE. Enough with this crap already. If my child dressed up like Dolly Parton for Halloween she’d wear a blonde wig. Is THAT racist? Get over yourselves.

Pitchy

April 20th, 2012
11:39 am

I love the smell of dirty public rest rooms.

Kat

April 20th, 2012
11:41 am

This day at school is always fun for the kids – it’s usually called VIP day. Each kid selects an historic person (alive or dead) to portray and learn about. The parents and other teachers “visit” each student’s desk where the children are asked questions – specific questions from a set of prepared ones. My kid loved this day. I never saw anyone change their skin color – but lots of hair color changes! I’ve seen white kids portray black people but never black kids portray white people. I think it’s good to be proud of people of your own race, but also to explore the other(s).

Was it “black face” or the harsh spray tan like Bert uses?

Mid range priced prostitute

April 20th, 2012
11:46 am

I’m a mid ranged price prostitute and I had no problems with this.

Marcus

April 20th, 2012
11:54 am

This is one of the most absurd things that I’ve heard of in a while. It’s comical when the people try to tell someone that something is not offensive. Newsflash, if it offends someone, regardless of intent, then it is “offensive”. Yes, the young boy was totally “pure” in his intentions. He heard about Ali, did the research, really admired the man and wanted to portray him for his project. I get that, but as a parent it’s your job to take a situation like that and make it a teachable moment. Let this child know that you understand his intent, but there is a painful past behind that practice. There are tons of people in the world that try to downplay the hurtfulness and the disrespect that “blackface” brings about. Would it be ok if a student chose to do research on Adolph Hitler for a project and came to school dressed in the full Nazi garb, swastika and all? This would be clearly inappropriate, just as inappropriate as a child putting on brown make-up to portray a black person. Although Ali stated he was okay, with the little boy portraying him in brown make up, when did Muhammad Ali become the end all be all when it comes to determining whether something is appropriate or inappropriate? If you have to ask if something is inappropriate or not, 9 times out of 10 it probably is inappropriate.

SBinF

April 20th, 2012
12:02 pm

I’m somewhat shocked. I work as a social studies teacher and we produce a fair every year. Students dress as famous figures from a specific country’s history. I would never suggest that they change their skin tone to mimic their figure.

It’s honestly a little insulting because it implies that by simply darkening his skin he will look like Muhammad Ali, which is of course a completely inane conclusion. We sometimes get inane conclusions from children, it’s up to an adult to straighten things out. Doesn’t seem like Bert did so this time.

RK

April 20th, 2012
12:03 pm

I think the Hitler analogy goes too far.

You should’ve picked Napolean — he and Bert are both short.

Kristen

April 20th, 2012
12:07 pm

I had to go into work and didn’t hear the end of this story. I’m so glad AJC wrote about it. LOVE it!!!!

Good

April 20th, 2012
12:17 pm

I’m glad that Bert allowed his son to wear the makeup. It is long past time for people to get over their hangups. Yes, there is a history of disrespect, denigration, murder, mockery, and many other heinous crimes. However, we must work to get beyond those things and drawing psuedo lines because one lacks control of their emotions is no means of doing that.

SamE

April 20th, 2012
12:19 pm

Good Job Bert! I think its’ great that you brought this topic to an open air forum aka Bert Show, kuddos to you for continuing to keep the conversation flowing between cultures and furthermore skin tones. I don’t think we can ever talk about this enough, as I am Bi-racial and stuck in between my entire life! Love this show!!

Me

April 20th, 2012
12:25 pm

No one has mentioned how ugly that little boy’s shirt was!! Seriously?!?! And how about braces, Bert and Stacy? Stacy, you have fake boobs. How about doing something cosmetic for your son?

Marcus

April 20th, 2012
12:32 pm

@ RK, The Hitler analogy was used because of the level of offense that could be taken by seeing a child dressing in this manner. Although, some people may not be offended by seeing a child dressed in Nazi attire for a school presentation, there are many people that would be offended. Trust me when I say there is nothing remotely appropriate about a white person dressing up with brown or black make-up to portray someone black. Its not just not okay. I’m not trying to convince anyone to feel this way, because you either understand it or you don’t.

Micheal

April 20th, 2012
1:01 pm

I can understand how this could be bad 10 years ago, but we all must move on! I applaud Burt for what he did and it was done with respect. Those that are still bothered need to understand that many of us no matter what race, religion etc…..have been made fun of, laughed at or totally discriminated against. Times have changed and those that are still holding on to the past need to get over it. I am so tired of the race card being thrown out. I just moved back to Atlanta from New England and everyone gets along. Move on people and lets celebrate where we are today. I love everyone one, every color and every sex! Lets just be happy!

herb

April 20th, 2012
1:01 pm

First, Kirsten should be on TV, not radio. She is so beautiful! What a gorgeous mane of hair!

I really enjoyed this debate! (But nobody can drag out a story like Bert Weiss can! It took him 45 minutes to tell it this morning, then he “caught ppl up” after the extra-long commercial break.) I wish they would continue with deeper topics (such as this) instead of so many “ALL men think this way, ALL women think that way” and silly relationship bits. So grateful Jan isn’t coaching women how to get a date via text anymore, though. Jan, you sarcastically called Kristin’s affinity for shoes “deep.” Um — said the pot to the kettle.

Yes, TBS — more debates/discussions such as this!!! Great topic, and I learned some things.

TJ

April 20th, 2012
1:03 pm

Kristin, with her childlike voice, adds nothing to the show. She seem quite immature. Poor casting choice.

RK

April 20th, 2012
1:07 pm

Marcus, it was a joke.