Blackout rally becomes platform for protest against blackface photo.
On Feb. 14, a picture was “airdropped” to everyone in the James B. Chavis University Center that depicted what students on campus considered “offensive and unacceptable” behavior.
Airdrop is a way of transferring files from iPhones that uses bluetooth.
When the transfer occurs, a connection and firewall is created between the two devices and all files are encrypted and sent. Virtually any file, photo, document or note can be airdropped.
The picture showed two women standing side by side, one who was a former softball player at UNCP, and the other, the recruitment chair for the chapter Tri Sigma who was in blackface.
The caption of the photo read: “When you just wanna fit in with the black girls.”
Blackface was once used to depict African-Americans in a derogatory manner in theatre and film. The stereotypes that perpetuated blackface were dark brown or black makeup, big red lips, with thick hair and ragged clothes.
The prevalence of blackface in American theatrics dates back to the 19th century and has since been a point in the ongoing discussion of racism since. Students, many of whom were unaware that the photo was from 2015, were outraged and took that anger to social media.
A student from UNCP posted the image online and in a matter of hours, the picture went viral and had been retweeted on Twitter 25,000+ times.
The University’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Nation Pan-Hellenic Council released a joint statement online that included a list of demands condemning the photo and the university for being “silent in the face of clear, blatant, and unequivocal racism.”
The joint statement from the two organizations demanded “the implementation of diversity education workshops and sessions at new student orientations and mandatory conferences for registered student organizations (INSPIRE, iLead, etc.),” and that the student in the photo attended 75 hours of community service through the office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Rumors around the conditions of the photo intensified as awareness of the photo spread across social media. Speculation of the time and year the photo was taken increased the student irritation that alleged the university’s negligence in handling the situation.
The following day after the photo was released, students spread word to congregate in front of the UC at 2 p.m. and wear all black to send a message of solidarity against the lack of responsibility taken by the university addressing the issue.
“You can’t do anything to her now, I understand that, but for future reference if somebody makes a racist remark they should be expelled no questions asked,” Manachea Bes, a third year public relations major said to the crowd.
Chancellor Cummings speaks of unity at blackout rally. Photo By Abaigeal Brown
Chancellor Robin G. Cummings also made an appearance shortly after the crowd began to grow.
“This hurts, you want to respond to that hurt and address it. I’m there with you, I’m listening. I came here today not to give you an answer because I don’t know all the answers yet because I’m still gathering data,” said Cummings. “My job and my hope is to get all the information and make a good decision about how to move into the future.”
History of blackface
Blackface originated in American theatrics and advertisements, during the early 1800’s to mock free blacks. Often, white actors would mask themselves in black paint, sut or charcoal to mimic black people’s color.
Other stereotypes consisted of drastic outlining of lips that were usually bright red, along with dramatic eyes and an illiterate accent. “Minstrel shows” were a form of American entertainment that usually told a story or hosted a musical performance.
However, often shows that surrounded the topic of slavery were used to depict black people in a derogatory manner. Blackface even became a commodity on television and broadway, being portrayed in shows such as ‘Amos N’ Andy’.