/Blackface post by Colorado State students sparks outcry as racial issues mount

Blackface post by Colorado State students sparks outcry as racial issues mount

Colorado State has called out a social media post showing students pictured in blackface over the weekend.

Four Colorado State University students are pictured in an Instagram story wearing blackface, with text on the photo reading “Wakanda forevaa,” a reference to Marvel’s “Black Panther.”

It’s one of several incidents in the past two years that CSU’s administration has acknowledged as incidents of racial bias.

“Because of the long and ugly history of blackface in America, this photo has caused a great deal of pain to members of our community,” CSU wrote in a statement signed by President Joyce McConnell, Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes and Vice President for Diversity Mary Ontiveros. “We have heard from many of you – and we hear you. Moreover, we respect your voices. We know that images like this one – whether consciously racist or not – can perpetuate deliberate racism and create a climate that feels deeply hostile.”

CSU issued the statement Tuesday night to students, faculty and staff.

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But social media accounts are protected by the First Amendment, according to the university, so it can’t take any punitive action.

“But there is still plenty we can do,” CSU officials wrote. “CSU is an educational institution committed to respecting every member of our community and to facilitating discussions that can promote honesty, learning and healing. Our offices have already asked faculty and staff to share their professional expertise and personal wisdom on the issues that this posted image raises about race and identity.”

“We are all here at CSU to learn, and we believe that this can be a powerful learning moment that leads to healing and reconciliation,” CSU wrote. “We urge every member of our community to listen, and to hear, all the voices that make up this wonderful, diverse campus family so we can move forward together, stronger than ever.”

More details will come next week on planned events and conversations, according to CSU officials. 

The university has engaged in efforts to promote inclusion, such as CSUnite, a walk that drew thousands of students, faculty and staff together to stand against injustice on campus.

An informal group also put together an inclusive language guide for optional staff use, which drew ire from many conservative media outlets.

And the university has posted a log of bias-motivated incidents on its website.

But the Instagram post is one of several incidents prompting racial tension in the past two years at the university.

In March 2019, a student wrote a Facebook post detailing her experience with what she called discrimination and racism at the university while she was a member of the team that escorted the live CAM the Ram mascot at events.

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Last year, a woman called police on two Native American men who joined a campus tour late. News of the incident spread nationwide.

In February 2018, protests around a conservative speaker at CSU turned violent when a group wielding riot shields and face masks emblazoned with skulls stormed a crowd while chanting a Nazi slogan.

In fall 2017, a paper noose was found in a residence hall. In another incident that same fall, Jewish students and their allies marched in solidarity to draw attention to anti-Semitic messages in the residence halls. Around the same time, a Middle Eastern student was subjected to “disturbing and intimidating behavior” by a resident unaffiliated with CSU while riding a bus.

Flyers related to an extremist white supremacist hate group have been distributed a couple of times on campus. Former CSU President Tony Frank condemned Nazi propaganda flyers that had been distributed. 

Follow Kelly Ragan on Twitter @kellyraygun.