By Guest Contributor Lauren Bailey
Halloween is known for inspiring some rather risqué costumes, but a few Beta Theta Pi fraternity members at the University of Florida went seriously over the line in their pathetic attempts at humor. Some controversial photos surfaced this week on social media that showed attendees of a University of Florida fraternity party wearing highly offensive blackface costumes during a “rock stars and rappers-themed” party.
“This comes up like clockwork every year around Halloween across the country at different colleges,” Katheryn Russell-Brown, UF law professor and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations, told “The Gainsville Sun.”
As “The Gainsville Sun” emphasizes, this disturbing behavior is a particularly touchy subject at the University of Florida – given the fact that the university has a rather small African-American student population. In fact, just 10 of the nearly 300 law school students at the university are black, and just last year, students were disciplined for wearing blackface costumes during football games.
The NAACP chapter at the university emphasized that the real issue isn’t that students wore these racially insensitive costumes; it’s that nobody in their presence seemed to think anything was truthfully wrong with it. “The fact that this is seen as acceptable is where the problem lies,” the organization’s Facebook page said.
The national chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and the fraternity members involved in wearing the costumes have since issued public apologies.
Ironically, less than two weeks ago another group of students created a storm of controversy for putting on a blackface skit. During a homecoming pep rally, a handful of Waverly High School students re-enacted a well-known domestic abuse incident between famous singers Chris Brown and Rihanna by painting their faces black and portraying a violent argument.
Similar to the University of Florida, Waverly High School also has a small black student population. According to 2010 Census data, of the 4,444 students at Waverly High School, 4,312 are white. This shocking skit was even approved by school officials before it was performed in front of the whole school, and just last year, the pep rally featured a different blackface skit, this one with student portraying Tiger Woods.
Not to sound too high on my horse, but aren’t people more civilized than this? Especially college-educated individuals? If we’re going to say we’re a progressive, civilized society, we need to act more like it. I’ve witnessed too many incidences in which women and minorities are trivialized and undermined throughout our society. It’s unacceptable and something that needs to be addressed and discussed as highly inappropriate and completely unacceptable (especially on school campuses).
Have you seen something like this at your own university? Feel free to utilize the comment section to discuss this disturbing matter.
Lauren Bailey is a freelance blogger and writer who covers stories on higher education trends for bestcollegesonline.com. Feel free to send any comments and concerns her way.