Knipp knows his character Shirley Q. Liquor sparks controversy, but claims his blackface portrayal of an impoverished African-American isn't a caricature of powerless African-Americans but an statement of awareness. Knipp claims black people are "more than intelligent enough to discern the nuance" of his acts.
Some entertainers say Knipp's minstrel makeup isn't a true mockery of black culture, but point the finger at modern day hip hop. In Spike Lee's minstrel mockery, Bamboozled starring Damon Wayans, he states, "In my opinion, this gangsta rap is a twenty-first century version of minstrel shows. And what's sad is these brothers don't even know it."
Other Shirley Q. supporters note cultural hypocrisy. In a May 2006 statement amid the cancellation of a Shirley Q. Liquor show on the Eastern Kentucky University campus, Zenetta McDaniel Coleman, the Director of Multicultural Student Affairs, wrote, "What we all need to keep in mind is that this is an institution of higher learning. Your purpose as students is to gain knowledge, have new experiences and hopefully develop a greater level of objectivity. I just wish that those who protested would have taken the time to see the performance and then decide collectively how to respond. This is about culture, and drag is strictly performance. What if a student organization wanted to invite the Wayans brothers to campus? In the movie White Chicks, the brothers portrayed black men who dressed up as white women. Still, I did not read much about any type of disturbance at the movie theaters because most of us were inside enjoying the show."
Still yet, other entertainers defend Knipp's performances. Rupaul is reported as saying, "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."
Racist MonologueGay and African-American activists have been just as outspoken about Knipp's performances as he has been defending them, calling Knipp's shows racist, derogatory and divisive. Boston-based artist and activist Imani Henry has also urged cancellations of Shirley Q. Liquor shows. "This is not about freedom of speech. This is a white supremacist that is being allowed to perform at local gay clubs, do benefits for AIDS organizations, in an attempt to divide our movement. But we won't let him."
Other protestors argue that Knipp's shows have no cultural value, despite his statements. Sue Hyde of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force talks of the show's social validity. "I have some ambivalent feelings about people not having seen the show," she says. "I do think there is value in the expression of even repugnant opinion and points of view." While watchdog Keith Boykin wrote, "Unlike Spike Lee's film, Knipp's routine is not a case of using a stereotype to educate the public. His website suggests otherwise, as he repeatedly identifies black people as 'ignunt' and even creates a 'compendium of ignunce.' Rather than challenging the ignorance of stereotypes, Knipp uses the stereotypes to show why he thinks blacks are ignorant."
The Equal Opportunities Commission of Madison, Wisconsin also released a statement about the cultural impact of Knipp's minstrel show. "Shows, such as minstrel shows and Shirley Q Liquor, can only prosper in an environment of ignorance, insensitivity and racism. The scheduling of such a show in Madison, illustrates very pointedly that negative stereotypes are still prevalent. For those individuals that think this type of discrimination no longer exists, here is proof that it does."