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Chris Rock defends Jimmy Fallon after 20-year-old blackface skit resurfaces online

Fallon apologized following the backlash in a cellphone video, saying that his portrayal of Rock with blackface was a 'terrible decision.'
Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
EXCLUSIVE - Jimmy Fallon, left, greets Chris Rock in the audience at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

Chris Rock is publicly defending his friend Jimmy Fallon after images of the late-night TV show in blackface from two decades ago resurfaced online and went viral in May.

The clip of Fallon performing on "SNL" in 2000 came back and hit a tone-deaf note with viewers and on social media, leading to the hashtag #JimmyFallonIsOver.

Fallon apologized following the backlash in a cellphone video. He told his followers that portraying Rock with blackface was a “terrible decision”.

The "Saturday Night Live" alum then revealed that he was told not to speak about the incident that took place nearly 20 years ago, but wanted to clear the air.

Rock, who stars in the upcoming fourth season of FX’s “Fargo” told The New York Times that Fallon is his friend and didn’t mean harm in the skit.

“I’m friends with Jimmy,” Rock said in the Times story. “Jimmy’s a great guy. And he didn’t mean anything. A lot of people want to say intention doesn’t matter, but it does. And I don’t think Jimmy Fallon intended to hurt me. And he didn’t.”

Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
EXCLUSIVE - Jimmy Fallon, left, greets Chris Rock in the audience at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

Blackface can be traced back to minstrel shows in the mid-to-late 19th Century where white actors would paint their faces black and their lips red to portray a Black character, often times as a caricature of reality.

They had a dehumanizing quality.

These types of shows and depictions of black people took hold with characters like the Mammy, Uncle Tom, and Jezebel that would become key characters in visual art where Black people had a role.

For Black people, it was hurtful. For Black representation in film, it was harmful and had a lasting impact that can still be seen today with how Black characters are written in some art forms.

Recently, several television series in the US and the UK, including "Little Britain," "30 Rock" and "The Golden Girls" have had episodes that have featured the practice removed from streaming.

Season 4 of "Fargo" premieres on FX on Sunday, September 27, with episodes streaming the following day on Hulu.