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Community reacts to blackface incident

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Posted: Friday, October 26, 2012 12:41 am

A UF student’s Instagram picture showing two Beta Theta Pi brothers dressed in blackface sparked controversy on and off campus Thursday.

Blackface, a style of makeup used in 19th century theater productions to stereotype and caricaturize African-Americans, is seen as an offensive practice today.

The Gator chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People posted the photo on its Facebook page Thursday afternoon with a message including “the fact that this is seen as acceptable is where the problem lies.” It garnered more than 70 comments as of press time.

The UF student who originally posted the photo deleted it.

Jonel Edwards, the president of the Gator NAACP chapter, said one of the executive board members posted it on the page. The 22-year-old political science junior said she also received an email with the photo that morning.

She said the photo was a misrepresentation of African-American culture.

“Why would you have a party like that?” she said. “It’s not OK.”

The party theme was “rock stars and rappers,” and it was held at a venue downtown, said Beta Theta Pi president Ethan McMahon.

He said the two brothers in the photo were the only ones made up in blackface.

“As an organization, we pride ourselves on the considerable diversity of our membership and are disappointed in the poor judgement and actions of two of our members,” the 21-year-old political science and economics senior wrote in an emailed statement. “While their actions were not intended with any malice or ill will to any members of our community, clearly they were offensive, and we accept full responsibility accordingly.”

He also said the chapter issues an apology to the UF community and will work with administration and fraternity leadership to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

McMahon said judicial action will probably be taken.

Vice President for Student Affairs Dave Kratzer sent an email to students involved in sororities and fraternities Thursday in response to the incident.

“We work very hard to create a welcoming environment for all students,” Kratzer wrote. “The actions of these students are a poor reflection on the University of Florida.”

Thursday night, the Institute of Black Culture held an emergency cypher for people to discuss their feelings.

Edwards said it’s important the fraternity brothers are held accountable for their actions.

She wants to have a conversation with them concerning the history behind blackface.

“From my point of view, they don’t see anything wrong with it,” she said.

Contact Samantha Shavell at sshavell@alligator.org.

Welcome to the discussion.

5 comments:

  • Sensible_Sensibility posted at 1:37 am on Fri, Nov 2, 2012.

    Sensible_Sensibility Posts: 24

    Mind your own business black people.

     
  • Scott_Sommers posted at 10:25 pm on Thu, Nov 1, 2012.

    Scott_Sommers Posts: 43

    "She wants to have a conversation with them concerning the history behind blackface.

    'From my point of view, they don’t see anything wrong with it,'”

    These guys are in college. I'm sure they're intelligent, and understand that blackface is offensive. It's called trolling. They're frat guys, and sometimes use their intelligence and creativity to purposely anger, frustrate, and confuse people. Get over it. Stop feeding the trolls.

     
  • Sensible_Sensibility posted at 10:21 pm on Thu, Nov 1, 2012.

    Sensible_Sensibility Posts: 24

    A misrepresentation of African American culture? Maybe. An accurate representation of frat culture? Definitely.

     
  • Romulan posted at 4:09 am on Sat, Oct 27, 2012.

    Romulan Posts: 479

    It's just a chance for people with an elitist mindset to act holier-than-thou and try to tell other people what to do. They should probably just be ignored since they have no real power. If UF had any sense (apparently they don't), they would realize that another chapter of Beta Theta Pi was involved in a lawsuit after being sanctioned for a similar incident but possibly more egregious, and the fraternity won. There is already standing legal precedent.

    What about the film Soul Man in which a college student makes himself appear black in order to get a scholarship? More than one author has changed his appearance in order write a book.

    If people want to dwell on "racial history," one of my ancestors (g-g-g-grandfather) was instrumental in keeping slavery out of Illinois, and his son (my g-g-grandfather) was a Union General. Should that matter? No, it shouldn't. Neither should the fact that someone's g-g-g-g-grandfather might have been a slave back in the 1800's.

    Some people are just WAY TOO SENSITIVE. If someone wouldn't come to UF because two butt-heads at a Halloween party decided to paint their faces black, then they probably would prove to be difficult people who can't get along with anyone.

     
  • whitenproud posted at 6:15 pm on Fri, Oct 26, 2012.

    whitenproud Posts: 1

    The black community is blowing this out of proportion. Big deal..they painted their faces black, if a black person painted themselves white...there would be no outrage, no cryfest, none of it.
    Stop complaining and move on from the past.