I ran across a book at the university library today that really threw me for a loop: here is the Amazon link:

Product Description
A refreshingly clearheaded and taboo-breaking look at race relations reveals that American culture is neither Black nor White nor Other, but a mix-a mongrel.

Black Like You is an erudite and entertaining exploration of race relations in American popular culture. Particularly compelling is Strausbaugh's eagerness to tackle blackface-a strange, often scandalous, and now taboo entertainment. Although blackface performance came to be denounced as purely racist mockery, and shamefacedly erased from most modern accounts of American cultural history, Black Like You shows that the impact of blackface on American culture was deep and long-lasting. Its influence can be seen in rock and hiphop; in vaudeville, Broadway, and gay drag performances; in Mark Twain and "gangsta lit"; in the earliest filmstrips and the 2004 movie White Chicks; on radio and television; in advertising and product marketing; and even in the way Americans speak.

Strausbaugh enlivens themes that are rarely discussed in public, let alone with such candor and vision:

- American culture neither conforms to knee-jerk racism nor to knee-jerk political correctness. It is neither Black nor White nor Other, but a mix-a mongrel.
- No history is best forgotten, however uncomfortable it may be to remember. The power of blackface to engender mortification and rage in Americans to this day is reason enough to examine what it tells us about our culture and ourselves. - Blackface is still alive. Its impact and descendants-including Black performers in "whiteface"-can be seen all around us today.
Then I looked up one of the guys mentioned in the book on Wikipedia:

Chuck Knipp is an American and Canadian (dual citizenship) drag comedian best known for his controversial alter egos, the black-face character "Shirley Q. Liquor" and "Betty Butterfield." His other characters are also what he calls "absurdist" - "Dr. Williams," a Valium-over-prescribing Texas family doctor, and "Narth Dakota Marge" who tends to run over "fat babies" in her Cadillac.

Knipp is a citizen of both the United States and Canada, active in the ACLU and Libertarian Party and was nominated as their candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000. (Texas, District 2). He is a commissioned notary public at large for the State of Kentucky...

Shirley Q. Liquor

Knipp's best known character is Shirley Q. Liquor, a cariacature of a black southern woman. Knipp performs the character -- an Ebonics speaking, welfare-collecting mother of 19 children[1] -- in blackface. Knipp speaks in a dialect of stereotypical broken English when he is performing as Shirley. Her conversations are often riddled with malapropisms, as when she suggests that her cat needs to get "sprayed", or when she goes shopping at "K-Mark" or 'Wal-Mark". The character attends Mount Holy Olive Second Baptist Zion Church of God in Christ of Resurrected Latter-Day Saints AME Hallelujah Jesus (a reference to historically African-American churches). She also references the Macademia Jubilation Congregation and the Reese's Peanut Butter Choir. On a few skits, she refers to herself as The Reverend Doctor Shirley Q. Liquor.

Liquor's best friend is the seven-foot-tall, 400 pound Watutsi Jenkins, who struggles with mental illness and needs to get "her head shocked" on a regular basis. Jenkins and Liquor are fans of Barry White as well as soap operas, which they refer to as "stories". Both are also fans of Schlitz and Colt 45 malt liquor and menthol cigarettes. Jenkins usually appears in "Happy Hour" skits which mimic a radio broadcast.

In addition to live performances, Knipp has produced several spoken-word CDs. Knipp's "Daily Ignunce" morning radio routine, usually 90 seconds long, is syndicated and heard on radio stations throughout the United States. Most recently, the character of Shirley Q. Liquor made an appearance in cartoon form on the pilot episode of Laugh Out, the first interactive, gay-themed comedy show. Shirley often addresses people by saying, "How you durrin'?"

Knipp's routines were consistently among the top downloaded comedy category mp3 files on prior to its shutdown in 2003.

Betty Butterfield

Knipp spun off a new character in 1998: "Betty Butterfield" a large, drug addled, church hopping southern white woman. Butterfield's character was first referenced in a Shirley Q Liquor skit entitled "Telemarketing" in which Liquor mimics the sound of a white woman answering the phone: "mm'hellooo?"

This greeting would become the trademark of Butterfield's routine. Unlike most Liquor skits, which are audio, virtually all of the Butterfield skits are in the Quicktime video format. Betty Butterfield is most likely to be found discussing her never-ending search for a church she can fit into. She has visited Mormon, Catholic, Pentcostal, Episcopal, Buddhist, and even Scientology churches, none of which were to her liking. Chain smoking throughout, Betty is likely to burst into tears at any moment as she discusses her church escapades, need for better prescriptions, and her abusive double-amputee, Vietnam veteran husband, Jerry. Knipp frequently performs his live shows first as Betty Butterfield, then as Shirley Q. Liquor.
After hanging out at DU where I got accused of racism for merely suggesting that Obama supporters be nice to Clinton supporters (and quit running them off the board for alleged "racism") I was appalled at this drag performer. I mean what this guy is doing looks like racism to me.

But apparently, Rue Paul says otherwise:

Entertainer RuPaul has long been a fan and supporter of Knipp. "Critics who think that Shirley Q. Liquor is offensive are idiots. Listen, I've been discriminated against by everybody in the world: gay people, black people, whatever. I know discrimination, I know racism, I know it very intimately. She's not racist, and if she were, she wouldn't be on my new CD." In her blog, RuPaul adds: "I am very sensitive to issues of racism, sexism and discrimination. I am a gay black man, who started my career as a professional transvestite in Georgia, twenty years ago."
So what the hell is racism again?