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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

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.

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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.

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