Was this a racist incident, or just a harmless joke? We know that white students went up on stage in blackface (admittedly with one black student, as the defenders who insist the incident was harmless, are quick to point out), were cheered on by the audience and won what most students would consider a fairly large amount of money. We know that this occurred in 2009 and 2007, that’s three out of the last eight years that an Isaac’s crowd nominated and cheered on white students wearing black faces and one year in which they were rewarded with prize money.
We know that blackface has a long history of oppression that many stress cannot be forgotten or swept away. We know that BUSU, Jack Lightstone our University President and two entire departments, Labour and Sociology, have condemned this practice along with multiple faculty from Dramatic Arts, Psychology and MA programs such as Social Justice and Equity and Critical Sociology. These disciplines have years of extensive experience dealing with issues of race, colonialism, and orientalism in the workplace and beyond.
Many of these professors have personally taught me and I have an overwhelming respect for them. We know that blackface, along with other racial costumes are looked on in poor taste at best (see John Oliver’s “Dressing like other races: Why is this still a thing?” on YouTube if you don’t believe me). I encourage people to think long and hard on these facts, at the end of the day everyone is going to have to make up their own mind on this issue. I know I have.– Mark Omiecinski