Northwestern “Blackface” Costumes Inspire Protest

"Harvard of the Midwest" in classless act

Two Northwestern students who attended a Halloween party dressed in blackface have sparked a public outcry from the NU community.

The photos, posted on the students' Facebook pages, have prompted campus groups to organize a closed forum Tuesday to discuss the incident with students.

“While I fully support the principles of free expression, at the same time I am deeply disappointed to see any example of insensitivity that demeans a segment of our community,” said Northwestern President Morton O. Schapiro in an e-mail to the NU community.

One of the students involved in the incident reportedly dressed as Bob Marley, painting his entire body black and wearing a shirt with the word "Jamaica." 

The second student dressed as a black woman with a tennis racket.  Both are believed to be student-athletes, according to The Daily Northwestern.

Student reactions have been mixed, with some suggesting the campus culture allows insensitivity because of the low minority population.

"I'm a little naive," said fellow student Julia Haskins. "[I] have to realize I'm in a place where some people might not understand that  something like black face is not appropriate."

Students have denounced the incident in several editorials in North By Northwestern, NU's independent online publication, and The Daily Northwestern.

"When I saw photos of the blackface kid, I laughed myself out of my chair," wrote Carlton Barzon in The Daily Northwestern. "I could only think, 'Wow. How can someone intelligent enough to be admitted to Northwestern University, 'Harvard of the Midwest', lack the tact to recognize such a racially inflammatory costume choice?'"

Northwestern has suffered from racial problems in the past.

In a strikingly similar incident in 2007, two NU Ph.D students posted photos of themselves online in blackface.

Last May, Northwestern rescinded its offer to award Rev. Jeremiah Wright with an honorary degree after his controversial sermon provoked Obama to deliver a speech addressing race relations in America.

On Oct. 18, a Chinese-American police officer at Northwestern filed a racial discrimination claim against the university, claiming he was verbally harassed by white co-workers and supervisors.  The university denied the allegations, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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