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by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Sep 30, '15

Over a decade ago I shot a video of me wearing a Jamaican dreadlocks cap, a jean jacket, and to top it all off, some brown makeup on my face. My wife at the time, who was Korean but raised in Michigan by a German family, applied the makeup and my mother who passed away 6 years ago now, made a cameo in the video. I also ended the video in my Scotty Nguyen outfit, mullet, gold chains, sunglasses, the whole deal.

The thing is, while that was the last time I did that, it wasn’t the first. When I was 13 years old most all of my friends were black. One night, one of my friends had a birthday party and there were probably about 60-75 people there. I knew maybe 15-20 of them and the rest were friends of his I didn’t know, as well as family. Of the 60-75 people at the party, there was literally one white person in attendance. Me. My friends thought it would be funny to help me "fit in" by putting brown makeup on my face. One of the girls had a makeup kit and she proceeded to cover my face with it while my friends laughed. They used to always ask me to chat reggae, so I chatted in patois while they laughed hysterically. I never felt that they were making fun of me, or mocking me, it just seemed like they were having fun with it. Of the group there, both people I knew and most of whom I didn’t, there wasn’t a single one that raised the issue that this might be inappropriate. This was close to 30 years ago and I doubt you would see this now, but back then when I did it there wasn’t a single word condemning it from anyone there.

When I was 15 years old, I decided to dress up as my idol for Halloween. My idol at the time was Bob Marley. Not only did I love his music, but I loved what he stood for. How instrumental he was in repairing apartheid and racial relations in South Africa. He was my hero, and my intention was to honor that by dressing up like him, again, with brown makeup on my face. I went to school like that, and once again, never heard a single word from anyone that my costume was inappropriate.

I share this with you to give you some background into not only how I was raised, but also to shed light on the fact that I wouldn’t ever intentionally demean a race of people. Recently the video resurfaced and someone asked if I was ashamed of what I had done. How could I be? When I did it, I had no idea it would be offensive. As I said previously, knowing what I know now I would not create that video today. If I saw someone make a video like that I would advise them against it and explain why. I wouldn’t leap to the assumption that the person was insensitive or racist. My first assumption would be that they were unaware of the history behind why this is inappropriate.

Labeling someone a racist is a pretty harsh and derogatory term. Personally I think people are often too quick on the trigger when using a term like that to describe a person. If a person says, or does something we may define as racist, that in itself doesn’t make the person a racist. When a football coach a few years ago said that he felt black players were better at playing cornerback, he did so by observing the fact that 100% of cornerbacks at the time were black. He made an assumption and developed a conclusion based on that assumption. While the comment he made could be classified as ignorant, or even racist, it doesn’t make the man saying it a racist.

I sent out a tweet about PC Culture and how I find it to be more harmful than good and it created a long back and forth on Twitter that morphed into a discussion about racism and what is acceptable and what isn’t. When I was young, we used to laugh and celebrate our differences while today it appears to me that the laughter and celebration has taken a backseat to anger and irresponsible judgment of a person’s character based on the way he phrased something. If someone used the term “Illegal Immigrant” to describe an immigrant who is in the country illegally, you don’t have to like the use of the term, but you would be making a grave mistake if you habitually jump to the conclusion that the person using the term is a racist.

Many of the posters kept bringing up White Privilege. I’m well aware of how doors were open to me simply because I’m white that weren’t necessarily available to others. I was born white. I’m not going to apologize for that. While I could never fully understand what it is like for others to make it in this world, during my childhood I was welcomed into a community that tried to help me understand. In my early teens, I don’t remember how old I was exactly, I was out bike riding with my friends. I went home around 9pm and they kept riding. The next day my friend showed up to school with a fat lip. My other friend had a black eye. When I asked them what happened, they didn’t want to talk about it. I asked again, “Dude, what happened to your face?” Finally he explained to me that after I had left a squad car pulled up beside them. Two cops got out of the car, trashed their bikes, and beat them up. When I asked, “Why? What did you guys do?" He kind of scoffed at me, maybe a little frustrated that I couldn’t ever truly understand, before saying, “We didn’t do nothing man. We were just riding.”

I wasn’t there, so I can’t say with certainty whether he was telling me the truth or not, but I have no reason to doubt what he told me. What really floored me was when he said that it’s not the first time it’s happened. I couldn’t relate. Nothing like that ever happened to me, but for my friends it was a regular occurrence. The only difference between me and them was the color of our skin.

So while I’m certainly aware that I would fall into the category of white privilege because of the color of my skin, dismissing everything a white person says because he can’t relate isn’t fair. What progress can be created without dialogue? How can we have productive dialogue if we don’t hear each other out? I think racism exists just as much today as it did when I was young. The biggest difference is that it happens more often behind closed doors. Many people are absolutely terrified to talk about race for fear of being labeled a racist. I’m obviously not one of those people. How can you educate people on their views if they won’t share them with you? How do you expect to create change if you aren’t willing to understand that you need to come from kindness and understanding when educating others on controversial topics like this?

I’ve met racists before. Unapologetic racists both black and white. I could spout hate by slinging insults there way, or I could try to understand how and why they see things the way they do? I could have a constructive discussion with them to maybe plant the seed, or open the door to them seeing things in a different light.

Many of our views are shaped in our childhood. I was taught by my parents to be generous, good hosts to all people. Race didn’t matter at all. Having said that, we often would use humor to celebrate our differences. My friends loved my dad, and they would come over all the time and chill with him. He would joke around with them. He would say, “Hey blacky, move your ass and bring me a beer and take one for yourself. Don’t be lazy!” My friend would reply with something like, “I’ll be right there honkey ass cracker.” Most of the funniest racist jokes I ever heard growing up came from my black friends. I won’t share them here because times have changed and those jokes would be highly inappropriate now. Part of me sees that as a shame, and the other part understands that times change and we must change with them.
Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of


over 5 years ago

My parents (I am 68) were racist (mostly a product of their time) but they were very careful to avoid turning me and my brother into racists. We were raised to treat each and every person as an individual. Daniel, obviously you were taught the same. It is sad that hate is often passed from generation to generation.


over 5 years ago

Those who live in the past are doomed to perpetuate it.


over 5 years ago

I thought this was suppose to be about poker, keep to what this is, POKER!


over 5 years ago

When does Danny boy ever talk about poker anymore? Does this make you uncomfortable since the topic about something that hits home ?


over 5 years ago

Hey Daniel ! I remembered years ago that you posted that black face jamaican dreadlocks costume video and it was controversial to do so. I remember Mikey (Matusow) commenting to you on another poker show about that because he didn't like it. Your excuse at that time was... "Well I am Canadian " and pretty much left it like that as being Canadian absolves you of any social responsibility or accountability in a public/ social platform. I did comment to you on a blog of yours at that time -- that I did not appreciate your actions and though I don't think you are a racist. That action was very insensitive and offensive!

Now since you brought up the fact that you were the only white person there in black face and that there were a ton of black people who never approached you in a negative way about it - Then your assumption is that everyone felt the same way about it. UNTRUE!!
Let me give you an example, have you ever in your entire life witness personally where a group of people were smiling and laughing and greeting one another. Then once the group breaks up and go their separate ways overheard how this person really dislike the other person for whatever reason. Sure you have!!

-- I am sure there were several people who left and said to themselves or partners that they didn't like the way you dressed in Black Face no matter how non-intentional you were in not insulting the Black race.
Blacks deal with a lot of subtle and insulting actions or comments from racists people who are not going to be STRAIGHT IN YOUR FACE BOLD BIGOTS. But quietly do other things to get in the mind of black people, to remind them that they are inferior.
That's where Americans have come today and in the past decade and these underlying actions and behavior has finally reached a boiling point from decades of abuse.


over 5 years ago

> Then once the group breaks up and go their separate ways overheard how this person really dislike the other person for whatever reason.

After people leave you stand around and talk about how much you dislike them, and you think that that is a sign that Daniel is a bigot?

I don't know why he bothers to respond to people like you or Bonomo. I guess that's the price that people pay to be in the public eye these days.

If someone can be bigoted without any ill-thoughts towards anyone, and without anyone telling them, then why are you not focused on people talking about you every time you leave the room?


over 5 years ago

smmcoy - It seems you have a hard time reading and understanding context based on your response. Let me explain it even to you... I never once called Daniel a "Bigot" or a "racist." What I did say - I believe his "actions" were "insensitive " and "offensive". Then I proceeded to back up my assertion with examples.
You took the example and try to change the narrative.

*** It's okay smmcoy. Reading and comprehension are not the same thing. Thats why I am explaining it to you.


over 5 years ago

Continuance... One of the Best poker players I have grown and respected in many years is Barry Greenstein. Not only has he done a lot of charity work and been a great ambassador for poker, but he has also promoted equality at the poker player. He wrote that book Ace on the River and tells a story about racists rich guys trying to get in the head of Phil Ivey by saying verbally abusive things so he would make mistakes. But Ivey wouldn't budge. I would love to hear about all the racist experienced stories from Phil Ivey one day!!

I have admired your ability to take a stance on different issues, Daniel over the years. But your defiance stance on that you didn't do anything wrong many years ago with the blackface costume because no one told you that they were offended and for others to call you a Racist now - is offensive to you and shouldn't be directed towards you -- thats hypocritical dont you think?

Ignorance is not an EXCUSE !! Don't defend your actions - just acknowledge your insensitivity, apologize for it and move on.
Because it seems your whole post about Racism was an action to defend yourself from what transpired on Twitter, etc without coming right out and saying it.

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