Blackface a black mark for every student

By Daily Ilini Editorial Board

The Daily Illini obtained photographs Tuesday afternoon of four University students using blackface to dress up as the Jamaican bobsled team that famously competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics and was the basis of Disney’s 1993 film “Cool Runnings.” Unfortunately, the University is not the first college campus to witness such an offensive act.

But this is not a matter of an ill-advised Halloween costume. It’s not a matter of who’s racist and who’s not. It’s not even a matter of what anyone intended by acting this way. This is about being smart versus being stupid, acting responsibly versus carelessly, and being understanding versus being ignorant.

It’s unclear exactly when humorously dressing up as people of other cultures became “cool,” but it’s always been dumb. The fact that anyone on this campus can think that blackface and nooses – as seen by several members of the editorial board this past weekend – are acceptable accessories for any Halloween outfit in any context is baffling. At some point, especially in the wake of the “Tacos and Tequila” fiasco in 2006 and a self-described stereotype party just a month ago, it stops being about bad taste and becomes something much more.

No matter whether malice was intended in any of these incidents on this campus or others, their occurrence still means that society is just a little bit closer to a place that no one wants to be.

But we cannot rely on the administration to magically solve problems of racial tolerance. In fact, we should be wary of authorities who try to extend their reach first into our apartments and then into our minds.

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That in no way means that we should simply look the other way while a problem festers and a community comes apart. It’s the duty of a responsible student to rise above the dueling shouts of “Racism!” and “First Amendment!” to simply say “This is just wrong.”

It’s ironic that whenever something like this happens, it’s not just the group that was negatively portrayed that suffers. With each blackface and each stereotype party and each noose, all college students, no matter how they identify themselves, are stereotyped as brash, uncaring and too arrogant to care about anything or anybody except themselves.

So go ahead and dress up for Halloween and enjoy the one day of the year when no one has to be themselves.

When you look in the mirror before you go out tonight, ask yourself who’s staring back at you. More importantly, consider what image you project when you’re not wearing a costume.