Ariana Bacle
March 31, 2014 AT 03:54 PM EDT

Nick Cannon stirred things up on Instagram last week by posing for photos in which he wore skin-lightening makeup. Captions for the photos indicated that Cannon was playing a white character called “Connor Smallnut.”

Cannon went on Good Morning America this morning to talk about the stunt, which he did to promote his upcoming album — his first in over 10 years — which is titled White People Party Music.

“It was one of those things, obviously, even when naming my album title and doing the character, I knew it would spark some controversy,” Cannon said. “But I feel like it’s a conversation that’s needed because we all have differences, we embrace it.”

And to the people calling him racist? “It’s even funny they’re using this term ‘whiteface.’ Like, I don’t really know what that is. I know ‘blackface’ is a term that was created in 1869 to describe offensive minstrel shows,” said Cannon. He’s certainly done his homework: “‘Whiteface,’ if you look it up and Google it, it’s a ski slope up in upstate New York. I was doing a character impression. Blackface is about oppression.”

Though Cannon’s invented white persona is intended to be a lighthearted gag, he said he also intended to contribute to a conversation about race by donning the makeup. “To me, this was to have fun and to put it out there. Yes, we have issues with race in this country, in this world, but it doesn’t have to be with hatred.”

White People Party Music comes out tomorrow, April 1. Watch Cannon’s full Good Morning America interview here.


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